The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers are incredibly fortunate generations—and so might be their heirs. Cerulli’s U.S. High-Net-Worth and Ultra-High-Net-Worth Markets 2021 report predicts these generations will transfer $72.6 trillion in assets to heirs and $11.9 trillion to charities through 2045.

That’s a lot of money, and it presents a unique opportunity for Gen Xers and Millennials to secure their financial futures. But it’s important to remember that this wealth won’t just magically appear. It will take planning and communication between the generations to transfer it smoothly.

Get an Honest Assessment of How Much Wealth There is to Transfer

Managing expectations is one of the biggest challenges heirs face when inheriting wealth from their parents or grandparents. Many Gen Xers and Millennials believe they will inherit a large sum of money, but this may not be the case.

Older generations are living longer and may spend a large percentage of their estate before it can be passed on. Others might give away too much money now and need financial support from their adult children later.

The first step in any estate planning discussion is getting honest about what heirs hope to receive and what the older generation can afford to give.

Decide Who Needs to be Involved in the Planning Process

Older generations can find it difficult to talk about their death. They may feel like they are losing control over their life and finances. Or they may be afraid that their heirs won’t be able to handle the responsibility of inheriting wealth.

However, it’s essential for members of different generations to have open communication about estate planning. That way, everyone is on the same page when the time comes to hand over the reins.

Involving a third party—a CPA, financial advisor, or attorney—in these conversations can help. These professionals do more than ensure the estate planning documents are in order and help navigate tax issues. They can also help facilitate difficult conversations between family members and negotiate any conflicts that might arise during the process. By working with these professionals, families can avoid costly legal disputes and ensure that their wealth is transferred seamlessly from one generation to the next.

Incorporate Education into Your Estate Planning

Even if the younger generation has a good idea of how much they’ll inherit, there may be some surprises. For example, they may inherit assets that must be managed carefully, such as a business or real estate. Or they may be expected to take over their parent or grandparents’ philanthropic activities.

Members of the younger generation who were kept in the dark about these decisions often struggle to live up to expectations.

If you plan on leaving a legacy for your heirs, start educating them about your intentions. Make sure they understand the role you expect them to play in managing and using the wealth you leave behind.

Start the Process Early

Every estate plan is unique, but with a long runway and proper planning, most estate tax is avoidable. The key is to start right away—as soon as it’s clear that are assets you want to transfer.

Some simple strategies you can start implementing now include:

When transferring wealth from one generation to the next, specific strategies will vary depending on whether you own a business, have philanthropic inclinations, and who your heirs are. However, what doesn’t change from one estate plan to the next is the need for communication.

For any generational wealth transfer to be successful, heirs need to understand why the wealth is being transferred, how it will be managed, and their role in the process.

Failure to communicate effectively can lead to many problems, including family feuds and lost money. So, families need to have open discussions about generational wealth transfer early on—before any decisions are made. Managing expectations and having honest conversations can help your family avoid misunderstandings and ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

These days, most businesses have some intangible assets. The tax treatment of these assets can be complex.

What Makes Intangibles so Complicated?

IRS regulations require the capitalization of costs to:

Capitalized costs can’t be deducted in the year paid or incurred. If they’re deductible at all, they must be ratably deducted over the life of the asset (or, for some assets, over periods specified by the tax code or under regulations). However, capitalization generally isn’t required for costs not exceeding $5,000 and for amounts paid to create or facilitate the creation of any right or benefit that doesn’t extend beyond the earlier of 1) 12 months after the first date on which the taxpayer realizes the right or benefit or 2) the end of the tax year following the tax year in which the payment is made.

What’s an Intangible?

The term “intangibles” covers many items. It may not always be simple to determine whether an intangible asset or benefit has been acquired or created. Intangibles include debt instruments, prepaid expenses, non-functional currencies, financial derivatives (including, but not limited to options, forward or futures contracts, and foreign currency contracts), leases, licenses, memberships, patents, copyrights, franchises, trademarks, trade names, goodwill, annuity contracts, insurance contracts, endowment contracts, customer lists, ownership interests in any business entity (for example, corporations, partnerships, LLCs, trusts, and estates) and other rights, assets, instruments and agreements.

Here are just a few examples of expenses to acquire or create intangibles that are subject to the capitalization rules:

The IRS regulations generally characterize an amount as paid to “facilitate” the acquisition or creation of an intangible if it is paid in the process of investigating or pursuing a transaction. The facilitation rules can affect any type of business, and many ordinary business transactions. Examples of costs that facilitate acquisition or creation of an intangible include payments to:

Are There Any Exceptions?

Like most tax rules, these capitalization rules have exceptions. There are also certain elections taxpayers can make to capitalize items that aren’t ordinarily required to be capitalized. The above examples aren’t all-inclusive, and given the length and complexity of the regulations, any transaction involving intangibles and related costs should be analyzed to determine the tax implications.

Need Help or Have Questions?

Contact us to discuss the capitalization rules to see if any costs you’ve paid or incurred must be capitalized or whether your business has entered into transactions that may trigger these rules. You can also contact us if you have any questions.

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An Alternate Valuation Date can Reduce Estate Tax Liability

If you have money invested in the stock market, you’re well aware of potential volatility. Needless to say, this volatility can affect your net worth, thus affecting your lifestyle. Something you might not think about is the potential effect on your estate tax liability. Specifically, if the value of stocks or other assets drops precipitously soon after your death, estate tax could be owed on value that has disappeared. One strategy to ease estate tax liability in this situation is for the estate’s executor to elect to use an alternate valuation date.

Alternative Valuation Date Eligibility

Typically, assets owned by the deceased are included in his or her taxable estate based on their value on the date of death. For instance, if an individual owned stocks valued at $1 million on the day when he or she died, the stocks would be included in the estate at a value of $1 million.

Despite today’s favorable rules that allow a federal gift and estate tax exemption of $12.06 million, a small percentage of families still must contend with the federal estate tax. However, the tax law provides some relief to estates that are negatively affected by fluctuating market conditions. Instead of using the value of assets on the date of death for estate tax purposes, the executor may elect an “alternate valuation” date of six months after the date of death. This election could effectively lower a federal estate tax bill.

The election is permissible only if the total value of the gross estate is lower on the alternate valuation date than it was on the date of death. Of course, the election generally wouldn’t be made otherwise. If assets are sold after death, the date of the disposition controls. The value doesn’t automatically revert to the date of death.

Furthermore, the ensuing estate tax must be lower by using the alternate valuation date than it would have been using the date-of-death valuation. This would also seem to be obvious, but that’s not necessarily true for estates passing under the unlimited marital deduction or for other times when the estate tax equals zero on the date of death.

Note that the election to use the alternate valuation date generally must be made with the estate tax return. There is, however, a provision that allows for a late-filed election.

All Assets Fall Under Alternate Valuation Date

The alternate valuation date election can save estate tax, but there’s one potential drawback: The election must be made for the entire estate. In other words, the executor can’t cherry-pick stocks to be valued six months after the date of death and retain the original valuation date for other stocks or assets. It’s all or nothing.

This could be a key consideration if an estate has, for example, sizable real estate holdings in addition to securities. If the real estate has been appreciating in value, making the election may not be the best approach. The executor must conduct a thorough inventory and accounting of the value of all assets.

Estate Plan Flexibility

If your estate includes assets that can fluctuate in value, such as stocks, be sure your executor knows about the option of choosing an alternate valuation date. This option allows flexibility to reduce the chances of estate tax liability. Contact your estate planning advisor for additional information.

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These days, most businesses buy or lease computer software to use in their operations. Or perhaps your business develops computer software to use in your products or services or sells or leases software to others. In any of these situations, you should be aware of the complex rules that determine the tax treatment of the expenses of buying, leasing or developing computer software.

Software You Buy

Some software costs are deemed to be costs of “purchased” software, meaning it’s either:

The entire cost of purchased software can be deducted in the year that it’s placed into service. The cases in which the costs are ineligible for this immediate write-off are the few instances in which 100% bonus depreciation or Section 179 small business expensing isn’t allowed, or when a taxpayer has elected out of 100% bonus depreciation and hasn’t made the election to apply Sec. 179 expensing. In those cases, the costs are amortized over the three-year period beginning with the month in which the software is placed in service. Note that the bonus depreciation rate will begin to be phased down for property placed in service after calendar year 2022.

If you buy the software as part of a hardware purchase in which the price of the software isn’t separately stated, you must treat the software cost as part of the hardware cost. Therefore, you must depreciate the software under the same method and over the same period of years that you depreciate the hardware. Additionally, if you buy the software as part of your purchase of all or a substantial part of a business, the software must generally be amortized over 15 years.

Software That’s Leased

You must deduct amounts you pay to rent leased software in the tax year they’re paid, if you’re a cash-method taxpayer, or the tax year for which the rentals are accrued, if you’re an accrual-method taxpayer. However, deductions aren’t generally permitted before the years to which the rentals are allocable. Also, if a lease involves total rentals of more than $250,000, special rules may apply.

Software That’s Developed

Some software is deemed to be “developed” (designed in-house or by a contractor who isn’t at risk if the software doesn’t perform). For tax years beginning before calendar year 2022, bonus depreciation applies to developed software to the extent described above. If bonus depreciation doesn’t apply, the taxpayer can either deduct the development costs in the year paid or incurred, or choose one of several alternative amortization periods over which to deduct the costs. For tax years beginning after calendar year 2021, generally the only allowable treatment is to amortize the costs over the five-year period beginning with the midpoint of the tax year in which the expenditures are paid or incurred.

If following any of the above rules requires you to change your treatment of software costs, it will usually be necessary for you to obtain IRS consent to the change.

We Can Help

Contact us with questions or for assistance in applying the tax rules for treating computer software costs in the way that is most advantageous for you.

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How much can you and your employees contribute to your 401(k)s next year — or other retirement plans? In Notice 2022-55, the IRS recently announced cost-of-living adjustments that apply to the dollar limitations for pensions, as well as other qualified retirement plans for 2023. The amounts increased more than they have in recent years due to inflation.

401(k) Plans

The 2023 contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k) plans will increase to $22,500 (up from $20,500 in 2022). This contribution amount also applies to 403(b) plans, most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in 401(k) plans and the other plans mentioned above will increase to $7,500 (up from $6,500 in 2022). Therefore, participants in 401(k) plans (and the others listed above) who are 50 and older can contribute up to $30,000 in 2023.

SEP Plans and Defined Contribution Plans

The limitation for defined contribution plans, including a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan, will increase from $61,000 to $66,000. To participate in a SEP, an eligible employee must receive at least a certain amount of compensation for the year. That amount will increase in 2023 to $750 (from $650 for 2022).

SIMPLE Plans

Deferrals to a SIMPLE plan will increase to $15,500 in 2023 (up from $14,000 in 2022). The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in SIMPLE plans will increase to $3,500 in 2023, up from $3,000.

Other Plan Limits

The IRS also announced that in 2023:

IRA Contributions

The 2023 limit on annual contributions to an individual IRA will increase to $6,500 (up from $6,000 for 2022). The IRA catch-up contribution limit for individuals age 50 and older isn’t subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and will remain $1,000.

Plan Ahead

Current high inflation rates will make it easier for you and your employees to save much more in your retirement plans in 2023. The contribution amounts will be a great deal higher next year than they’ve been in recent years. Contact us if you have questions about your tax-advantaged retirement plan or if you want to explore other retirement plan options.

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Companies that wish to reduce their tax bills or increase their refunds shouldn’t overlook the fuel tax credit. It’s available for federal tax paid on fuel used for nontaxable purposes.

When Does the Federal Fuel Tax Apply?

The federal fuel tax, which is used to fund highway and road maintenance programs, is collected from buyers of gasoline, undyed diesel fuel, and undyed kerosene. (Dyed fuels, which are limited to off-road use, are exempt from the tax.)

But purchasers of taxable fuel may use it for nontaxable purposes. For example, construction businesses often use gasoline, undyed diesel fuel or undyed kerosene to run off-road vehicles and construction equipment, such as front loaders, bulldozers, cranes, power saws, air compressors, generators and heaters.

As of this writing, a federal fuel tax holiday has been proposed. But even if it’s signed into law (check with your tax advisor for the latest information), businesses can benefit from the fuel tax credit for months the holiday isn’t in effect.

How Much Can You Save?

Currently, the federal tax on gasoline is $0.184 per gallon, and the federal tax on diesel fuel and kerosene is $0.244 per gallon. Calculating the fuel tax credit is simply a matter of multiplying the number of gallons used for nontaxable purposes during the year by the applicable rate.

So, for instance, a company that uses 7,500 gallons of gasoline and 15,000 gallons of undyed diesel fuel to operate off-road vehicles and equipment is entitled to a $5,040 credit (7,500 x $0.184) + (15,000 x $0.244).

This may not seem like a large number, but it can add up over the years. And remember, a tax credit reduces your tax liability dollar for dollar. That’s much more valuable than a deduction, which reduces only your taxable income.

Keep in mind, though, that fuel tax credits are includable in your company’s taxable income. That’s because the full amount of the fuel purchases was previously deducted as business expenses, and you can’t claim a deduction and a credit on the same expense.

How Do You Claim It?

You can claim the credit by filing Form 4136, “Credit for Federal Tax Paid on Fuels,” with your tax return. If you don’t want to wait until the end of the year to recoup fuel taxes, you can file Form 8849, “Claim for Refund of Excise Taxes,” to obtain periodic refunds.

Alternatively, if your business files Form 720, “Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return,” you can claim fuel tax credits against your excise tax liability.

Why Pay if You Don’t Have To?

No one likes to pay taxes they don’t owe, but if you forgo fuel tax credits, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Given the minimal burden involved in claiming these credits — it’s just a matter of tracking your nontaxable fuel uses and filing a form — there’s really no reason not to do so.

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What makes Roth IRAs so appealing? Primarily, it’s the ability to withdraw money from them tax-free. But to enjoy this benefit, there are a few rules you must follow, including the widely misunderstood five-year rule.

3 Types of Withdrawals

To understand the five-year rule, you first need to understand the three types of funds that may be withdrawn from a Roth IRA:

Contributed principal. This is your after-tax contributions to the account.

Converted principal. This consists of funds that had been in a traditional IRA but that you converted to a Roth IRA (paying tax on the conversion).

Earnings. This includes the (untaxed) returns generated from the contributed or converted principal.

Generally, you can withdraw contributed principal at any time without taxes or early withdrawal penalties, regardless of your age or how long the funds have been held in the Roth IRA. But to avoid taxes and penalties on withdrawals of earnings, you must meet two requirements:

The withdrawal must not be made before you turn 59½, die, become disabled or qualify for an exception to early withdrawal penalties (such as withdrawals for qualified first-time homebuyer expenses), and

You must satisfy the five-year rule.

Withdrawals of converted principal aren’t taxable because you were taxed at the time of the conversion. But they’re subject to early withdrawal penalties if you fail to satisfy the five-year rule.

Five-Year Rule

As the name suggests, the five-year rule requires you to satisfy a five-year holding period before you can withdraw Roth IRA earnings tax-free or converted principal penalty-free. But the rule works differently depending on the type of funds you’re withdrawing.

If you’re withdrawing earnings, the five-year period begins on January 1 of the tax year for which you made your first contribution to any Roth IRA. For example, if you opened your first Roth IRA on April 1, 2018, and treated your initial contribution as one for the 2017 tax year, then the five-year period started on January 1, 2017. That means you were able to withdraw earnings from any Roth IRA tax- and penalty-free beginning on January 1, 2022 (assuming you were at least 59½ or otherwise exempt from early withdrawal penalties).

Note: If you’re not subject to early withdrawal penalties (because, for example, you’re 59½ or older), failure to satisfy the five-year rule won’t trigger a penalty, but earnings will be taxable.

If you’re withdrawing converted principal, the five-year holding period begins on January 1 of the tax year in which you do the conversion. For instance, if you converted a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA at any time during 2017, the five-year period began January 1, 2017, and ended December 31, 2021.

Unlike earnings, however, each Roth IRA conversion is subject to a separate five-year holding period. If you do several conversions over the years, you’ll need to track each five-year period carefully to avoid triggering unexpected penalties.

Keep in mind that the five-year rule only comes into play if you’re otherwise subject to early withdrawal penalties. If you’ve reached age 59½, or a penalty exception applies, then you can withdraw converted principal penalty-free even if the five-year period hasn’t expired.

You may be wondering why the five-year rule applies to withdrawals of funds that have already been taxed. The reason is that the tax benefits of Roth and traditional IRAs are intended to promote long-term saving for retirement. Without the five-year rule, a traditional IRA owner could circumvent the penalty for early withdrawals simply by converting it to a Roth IRA, paying the tax, and immediately withdrawing it penalty-free.

Note, however, that while the five-year rule prevents this, it’s still possible to use a conversion to withdraw funds penalty-free before age 59½. For example, you could convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA at age 45, pay the tax, wait five years and then withdraw the converted principal penalty-free.

What About Inherited Roth IRAs?

Generally, one who inherits a Roth IRA may withdraw the funds immediately without fear of taxes or penalties, with one exception: The five-year rule may still apply to withdrawals of earnings if the original owner of the Roth IRA hadn’t satisfied the five-year rule at the time of his or her death.

For instance, suppose you inherited a Roth IRA from your grandfather on July 1, 2021. If he made his first Roth IRA contribution on December 1, 2018, you’ll have to wait until January 1, 2023, before you can withdraw earnings tax-free.

Handle With Care

Many people are accustomed to withdrawing retirement savings freely once they reach age 59½. But care must be taken when withdrawing funds from a Roth IRA to avoid running afoul of the five-year rule and inadvertently triggering unexpected taxes or penalties. The rule is complex — so when in doubt, consult a tax professional before making a withdrawal.

Sidebar: Ordering Rules May Help Avoid Costly Mistakes

The consequences of violating the five-year rule can be costly, but fortunately, there are ordering rules that help you avoid inadvertent mistakes. Under these rules, withdrawals from a Roth IRA are presumed to come from after-tax contributions first, converted principal second, and earnings third.

So, if contributions are large enough to cover the amount you wish to withdraw, you will avoid taxes and penalties even if the five-year rule hasn’t been satisfied for converted principal or earnings. Of course, if you withdraw the entire account balance, the ordering rules won’t help you.

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A significantly modified update to the Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit (IRC Section 30D), went into effect August 17, 2022, and changed this popular tax credit.  As of January 1, 2023, the new Clean Vehicle Credit will go into effect. In this article we outline what you need to know about the updated credit. 

While the previous credit also allowed up to a $7,500 credit for purchasers of eligible vehicles, it included a maximum manufacturing limit for each car manufacturer. That means General Motors and Tesla brand cars were no longer eligible for the credit. The new version of this tax credit is going to remove this cap but adds several new stipulations that will go into effect over time. In addition, the credit has been expanded to include all clean vehicle types, including plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. 

The Department of Entergy (DOE) has given a list of electric vehicles that may meet the updated Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit and new Clean Vehicle Credit at https://afdc.energy.gov/laws/inflation-reduction-act. They recommend that taxpayers still confirm that their vehicle meets the new North America assembly requirement.  

Existing Contracts May Get to Choose Their Credit 

Suppose you are one of the taxpayers that signed a purchase contract before August 16, 2022 but did not take possession until after August 16, 2022. In that case, you may have the opportunity to choose to use the updated Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit rules or be grandfathered into the old tax credit qualifications. This could benefit vehicles by manufacturers that have previously reached their manufacturing cap or for vehicles that do not meet the final assembly requirement. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a VIN decoder to see if the vehicle qualifies for tax credits. 

California Incentives for Clean Vehicle Purchases 

The State of California does not have a comparable tax credit but offers rebates for purchases of qualified ‘clean vehicles.’ The rebate amounts range from $750 to $7,000 depending on the vehicle and the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MRSP). In addition, low-income families can add up to $2,500 to the rebate for purchasing an eligible vehicle. View the list of vehicles eligible for the California rebate here 

To review your tax planning and whether a clean vehicle purchase would be advantageous, reach out to our team of knowledgeable tax professionals to schedule an appointment 

Many companies are eligible for tax write-offs for certain equipment purchases and building improvements. These write-offs can do wonders for a business’s cash flow, but whether to claim them isn’t always an easy decision. In some cases, there are advantages to following the regular depreciation rules. So it’s critical to look at the big picture and develop a strategy that aligns with your company’s overall tax-planning objectives.

Background

Taxpayers can elect to claim 100% bonus depreciation or Section 179 expensing to deduct the full cost of eligible property up front in the year it’s placed in service. Alternatively, they may spread depreciation deductions over several years or decades, depending on how the tax code classifies the property.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), 100% bonus depreciation is available for property placed in service through 2022. Without further legislation, bonus depreciation will be phased down to 80% for property placed in service in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026; then, after 2026, bonus depreciation will no longer be available. (For certain property with longer production periods, these reductions are delayed by one year. For example, 80% bonus depreciation will apply to long-production-period property placed in service in 2024.)

In March 2020, a technical correction made by the CARES Act expanded the availability of bonus depreciation. Under the correction, qualified improvement property (QIP), which includes many interior improvements to commercial buildings, is eligible for 100% bonus depreciation not only following the phaseout schedule through 2026 but also retroactively to 2018. So, taxpayers that placed QIP in service in 2018 and 2019 may have an opportunity to claim bonus depreciation by amending their returns for those years. If bonus depreciation isn’t claimed, QIP is generally depreciable on a straight-line basis over 15 years.

Sec. 179 also allows taxpayers to fully deduct the cost of eligible property, but the maximum deduction in a given year is $1 million (adjusted for inflation to $1.08 million for 2022), and the deduction is gradually phased out once a taxpayer’s qualifying expenditures exceed $2.5 million (adjusted for inflation to $2.7 million for 2022).

Examples

While 100% first-year bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 expensing can significantly lower your company’s taxable income, it’s not always a smart move. Here are three examples of situations where it may be preferable to forgo bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 expensing:

You’re planning to sell QIP. If you’ve invested heavily in building improvements that are eligible for bonus depreciation as QIP and you plan to sell the building in the near future, you may be stepping into a tax trap by claiming the QIP write-off. That’s because your gain on the sale — up to the amount of bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 deductions you’ve claimed — will be treated as “recaptured” depreciation that’s taxable at ordinary-income tax rates as high as 37%. On the other hand, if you deduct the cost of QIP under regular depreciation rules (generally, over 15 years), any long-term gain attributable to those deductions will be taxable at a top rate of 25% upon the building’s sale.

You’re eligible for the Sec. 199A “pass-through” deduction. This deduction allows eligible business owners to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income (QBI) from certain pass-through entities, such as partnerships, limited liability companies and S corporations, as well as sole proprietorships. The deduction, which is available through 2025 under the TCJA, can’t exceed 20% of an owner’s taxable income, excluding net capital gains. (Several other restrictions apply.)

Claiming bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 deductions reduces your QBI, which may deprive you of an opportunity to maximize the 199A deduction. And since the 199A deduction is scheduled to expire in 2025, it makes sense to take advantage of it while you can.

Your depreciation deductions may be more valuable in the future. The value of a deduction is based on its ability to reduce your tax bill. If you think your tax rate will go up in the coming years, either because you believe Congress will increase rates or you expect to be in a higher bracket, depreciation write-offs may be worth more in future years than they are now.

Timing is Everything

Keep in mind that forgoing bonus depreciation or Sec. 179 deductions only affects the timing of those deductions. You’ll still have an opportunity to write off the full cost of eligible assets; it will just be over a longer time period. Your tax advisor can analyze how these write-offs interact with other tax benefits and help you determine the optimal strategy for your situation.

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No one needs to remind business owners that the cost of employee health care benefits keeps going up. One way to provide some of these benefits is through an employer-sponsored Health Savings Account (HSA). For eligible individuals, an HSA offers a tax-advantaged way to set aside funds (or have their employers do so) to meet future medical needs. Here are the key tax benefits:

Eligibility and 2023 Contribution Limits

To be eligible for an HSA, an individual must be covered by a “high deductible health plan.” For 2023, a “high deductible health plan” will be one with an annual deductible of at least $1,500 for self-only coverage or at least $3,000 for family coverage. (These amounts in 2022 were $1,400 and $2,800, respectively.) For self-only coverage, the 2023 limit on deductible contributions will be $3,850 (up from $3,650 in 2022). For family coverage, the 2023 limit on deductible contributions will be $7,750 (up from $7,300 in 2022). Additionally, annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits for 2023 will not be able to exceed $7,500 for self-only coverage or $15,000 for family coverage (up from $7,050 and $14,100, respectively, in 2022).

An individual (and the individual’s covered spouse, as well) who has reached age 55 before the close of the tax year (and is an eligible HSA contributor) may make additional “catch-up” contributions for 2023 of up to $1,000 (unchanged from the 2022 amount).

Employer Contributions

If an employer contributes to the HSA of an eligible individual, the employer’s contribution is treated as employer-provided coverage for medical expenses under an accident or health plan. It’s also excludable from an employee’s gross income up to the deduction limitation. Funds can be built up for years because there’s no “use-it-or-lose-it” provision. An employer that decides to make contributions on its employees’ behalf must generally make comparable contributions to the HSAs of all comparable participating employees for that calendar year. If the employer doesn’t make comparable contributions, the employer is subject to a 35% tax on the aggregate amount contributed by the employer to HSAs for that period.

Making Withdrawals

HSA withdrawals (or distributions) can be made to pay for qualified medical expenses, which generally means expenses that would qualify for the medical expense itemized deduction. Among these expenses are doctors’ visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care, and premiums for long-term care insurance.

If funds are withdrawn from the HSA for other reasons, the withdrawal is taxable. Additionally, an extra 20% tax will apply to the withdrawal unless it’s made after reaching age 65 or in the event of death or disability.

HSAs offer a flexible option for providing health care coverage, and they may be an attractive benefit for your business. But the rules are somewhat complex. Contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss offering HSAs to your employees.

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If you need to hire, be aware of a valuable tax credit for employers hiring individuals from one or more targeted groups. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is generally worth $2,400 for each eligible employee but can be worth more — in some cases, much more.

Targeted Groups

Generally, an employer is eligible for the credit only for qualified wages paid to members of a targeted group. These groups are:

Employer Eligibility and Requirements

Employers of all sizes are eligible to claim the WOTC. This includes both taxable and certain tax-exempt employers located in the United States and in some U.S. territories. Taxable employers can claim the WOTC against income taxes. However, eligible tax-exempt employers can claim the WOTC only against payroll taxes and only for wages paid to members of the qualified veteran targeted group.

Many additional conditions must be fulfilled before employers can qualify for the credit. Each employee must have completed a minimum of 120 hours of service for the employer. Also, the credit isn’t available for employees who are related to the employer or who previously worked for the employer.

Credit Amounts

WOTC amounts differ for specific employees. The maximum credit available for the first year’s wages generally is $2,400 for each employee, or $4,000 for a recipient of long-term family assistance. In addition, for those receiving long-term family assistance, there’s a 50% credit for up to $10,000 of second-year wages. The maximum credit available over two years for these employees is $9,000 ($4,000 for Year 1 and $5,000 for Year 2).

For some veterans, the maximum WOTC is higher: $4,800 for certain disabled veterans, $5,600 for certain unemployed veterans, and $9,600 for certain veterans who are both disabled and unemployed.

For summer youth employees, the wages must be paid for services performed during any 90-day period between May 1 and September 15. The maximum WOTC credit available for summer youth is $1,200 per employee.

Worth Pursuing

Additional rules and requirements apply. For example, you must obtain certification that an employee is a target group member from the appropriate State Workforce Agency before you can claim the credit. The certification generally must be requested within 28 days after the employee begins work. And in limited circumstances, the rules may prohibit the credit or require an allocation of it.

Nevertheless, for most employers that hire from targeted groups, the credit can be valuable. Contact your tax advisor with questions or for more information about your situation.

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On October 21, 2022, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced the updated contribution limits to retirement plans in Notice 2022-55. The new limits are valid beginning in tax year 2023. These limits are important, as they cap the tax benefits that can be realized from retirement plan savings contributions each year and are adjusted to account for annual inflation.

Employer Contribution Plan Limits

There are several options available under the ‘Employer Contribution Plans’ category. These plans are typically funded through an employer and may or may not have contributions paid for by the employer. For 401(k), 403(b), the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan, and most 457 plans, the contribution limit will increase from $20,500 in 2022 to $22,500 in 2023.

Individuals aged 50 years and above can contribute additional funds, called ‘Catch Up Contributions.’ The catch-up contribution limit or the employer-sponsored plans mentioned above will increase from $6,500 in 2022 to $7,500 in 2023. This means those with a qualifying employer-sponsored plan who are 50 or older can contribute up to $30,000 to tax-beneficial retirement plans.

Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) Accounts

Depending on income, the IRS provides tax benefits to non-employer-sponsored retirement accounts called Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). The traditional IRA offers a deduction for the income in the tax year the contribution is made, while a Roth IRA offers tax benefits when the funds are withdrawn after the qualifying retirement age.

The IRS has increased the contribution limit to these types of accounts to $6,500 in 2023 from $6,000 in 2022. For individuals eligible for a catch-up contribution, the additional contribution amount remains at $1,000.

Keep in mind that there is an income limit on both Traditional IRA and Roth IRA accounts before the tax benefits start to phase out. These limits are:

Traditional IRA

Single Filers/Heads of Household $73,000 to $83,000*
Married Filing Jointly (spouse contributing covered by employer plan) $116,000 to $136,000*
Married Filing Jointly (contributor not covered by employer plan, but spouse is) $218,000 to $228,000*
Married Filing Separate (contributor covered by an employer plan) $0 to $10,000*

Roth IRA

Single Filers/Heads of Household $138,000 to $153,000*
Married Filing Jointly $218,000 to $228,000*
Married Filing Separate $0 to $10,000*

Retirement Savings Contributions Credit

Single Filers/Married Filing Separate $36,500
Married Filing Jointly $73,000
Heads of Household $54,750

*Note: Contribution limits to Traditional IRA and Roth IRA accounts phase out over the noted income range.

Need assistance understanding the tax benefits and contribution limits attached to the different tax-beneficial retirement accounts? Our team of knowledgeable professionals is here to help. Give us a call to discuss your tax strategy for retirement savings today.

The Social Security Administration recently announced that the wage base for computing Social Security tax will increase to $160,200 for 2023 (up from $147,000 for 2022). Wages and self-employment income above this threshold aren’t subject to Social Security tax.

Basics About Social Security

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) imposes two taxes on employers, employees, and self-employed workers. One is for the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program, which is commonly known as Social Security. The other is for the Hospital Insurance program, which is commonly known as Medicare.

There’s a maximum amount of compensation subject to the Social Security tax, but no maximum for Medicare tax. For 2023, the FICA tax rate for employers is 7.65% — 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare (the same as in 2022).

2023 Updates

For 2023, an employee will pay:

For 2023, the self-employment tax imposed on self-employed people is:

Employees with More Than One Employer

What happens if one of your employees works for your business and has a second job? That employee would have taxes withheld from two different employers. Can the employee ask you to stop withholding Social Security tax once he or she reaches the wage base threshold? Unfortunately, no. Each employer must withhold Social Security taxes from the individual’s wages, even if the combined withholding exceeds the maximum amount that can be imposed for the year. Fortunately, the employee will get a credit on his or her tax return for any excess withheld.

Looking Forward

Contact us if you have questions about 2023 payroll tax filing or payments. We can help ensure you stay in compliance.

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Throughout the year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will designate incidents that adversely affect residents in the affected areas as disasters. This FEMA designation puts relief efforts in motion, both short and long-term.

While immediate needs like food, water, and shelter are at the top of the list, long-term efforts, like relief options through the IRS, aim to help those affected get back on their feet.

What Does the IRS Do in the Event of a Disaster?

In the past, the Senate was required to vote every time the IRS wanted to grant disaster relief provisions to FEMA-designated disaster areas. Now, the IRS can give disaster relief by extending deadlines for “certain time-sensitive acts.” This includes filing returns and paying taxes during the disaster period. For example, affected taxpayers usually receive a tax refund more quickly by “claiming losses related to the disaster on the tax return for the previous year.”

Preparing for a Disaster

While in some areas of the country, disaster preparedness feels more like a what-if scenario, other parts of the country are all-too-familiar with preparing for floods, wildfires, and tornados. The IRS recommends:

Recovering After a Disaster

Suppose you or your business have gone through a natural disaster, and you cannot access your original tax documents. In that case, the IRS recommends the following resources for obtaining important financial information when you are ready:

Current Disaster Areas

The IRS keeps a list of current and past disaster relief offered on its website. Some of the more recent disaster-related tax relief programs include:

We recommend talking with your tax advisor and visiting the IRS Disaster Relief Website for a comprehensive list.

Even though the overall IRS audit rate is currently low historically, it’s expected to increase as a result of provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law in August. So it’s more important than ever for taxpayers to follow the rules to minimize their chances of being subject to an audit. How can you reduce your audit chances? Watch for these 10 red flags that can trigger IRS scrutiny:

Of course, this isn’t the end of the list. There are many other potential audit triggers, depending on a taxpayer’s particular situation. Also, keep in mind that some audits are done on a random basis. So even if you have no common triggers on your return, you still could be subject to an audit (though the chances are lower).

With proper tax reporting and professional help, you can reduce the likelihood of triggering an audit. And if you still end up being subject to one, proper documentation can help you withstand it with little or no negative consequences.

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If you’re thinking about selling your home, it’s important to determine whether you qualify for the home sale gain exclusion. The exclusion is one of the most generous tax breaks in the tax code, so be sure to review its requirements before you sell.

Exclusion Requirements

Ordinarily, when you sell real estate or other capital assets that you’ve owned for more than one year, your profit is taxable at long-term capital gains rates of 15% or 20%, depending on your tax bracket. High-income taxpayers may also be subject to an additional 3.8% net investment income (NII) tax. If you’re selling your principal residence, however, the home sale gain exclusion may allow you to avoid tax on up to $250,000 in profit for single filers and up to $500,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Don’t assume that you’re eligible for this tax break just because you’re selling your principal residence. If you’re a single filer, to qualify for the exclusion, you must have owned and used the home as your principal residence for at least 24 months of the five-year period ending on the sale date.

If you’re married filing jointly, then both you and your spouse must have lived in the home as your principal residence for 24 months of the preceding five years and at least one of you must have owned it for 24 months of the preceding five years. Special eligibility rules apply to people who become unable to care for themselves, couples who divorce or separate, military personnel, and widowed taxpayers.

Limitations Apply

You can’t use the exclusion more than once in a two-year period, even if you otherwise meet the requirements. Also, if you convert an ineligible residence into a principal residence and live in it for 24 months or more, only a portion of your gain will qualify for the exclusion.

For example, John is single and has owned a home for five years, using it as a vacation home for the first three years and as his principal residence for the last two. If he sells the home for a $300,000 gain, only 40% of his gain ($120,000) qualifies for the exclusion, and the remaining $180,000 is taxable. (Note: Nonqualified use prior to 2009 doesn’t reduce the exclusion).

Partial Exclusion

What if you sell your home before you meet the 24-month threshold due to a work- or health-related move, or certain other unforeseen circumstances? You may qualify for a partial exclusion.

For example, Paul and Linda bought a home in California for $1 million. One year later, Paul’s employer transferred him to its New York office, so the couple sold the home for $1.2 million. Paul and Linda didn’t meet the 24-month threshold but, because they sold the home due to a work-related move, they qualified for a partial exclusion of 12 months/24 months, or 50%.

Note that the 50% reduction applied to the exclusion, not to the couple’s gain. Thus, their exclusion was reduced to 50% of $500,000, or $250,000, which shielded their entire $200,000 gain from tax.

Crunch the Numbers

Before you sell your principal residence, determine the amount of your home sale gain exclusion and your expected gain (selling price less adjusted cost basis). Keep in mind that your cost basis is increased by the cost of certain improvements and other expenses, which in turn reduces your gain. Also, be aware that capital gains attributable to depreciation deductions (for a home office, for example) will be taxable regardless of the home sale gain exclusion.

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Do you own commercial or investment real estate that has substantially increased in value? If you sell the property, you may be hit with a huge capital gain tax liability. Possible solution: Consider a Section 1031 exchange (also known as a like-kind exchange) in which you swap qualifying properties while paying zero or little current tax.

Recent legislation has narrowed the availability of Sec. 1031 exchanges, but you can still use this technique for qualified real estate transactions. However, keep in mind that a repeal or modification of the rules has been discussed. So, if you’re interested in an exchange, you may want to act soon.

What’s the Deal?

Under Sec. 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, you can defer tax on the exchange of like-kind real estate properties if specific requirements are met. Previously, this tax break was available for various types of property, such as trade-ins of business vehicles. But as of 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act strictly limits the Sec. 1031 rules to real estate transactions.

Note that the properties — both the one you relinquish and the one you receive — must be business or investment properties. You can’t avoid current tax if you swap personal residences, but you may be able to exchange a vacation home that is treated as a rental property. (There may be other complications, so consult with your tax advisor.)

Normally, a sale of appreciated real estate would result in capital gains tax. For individual property owners, the maximum tax rate is 20% if the property has been owned for longer than one year. Otherwise, the gain for individuals is taxed at ordinary income tax rates currently topping out at 37%.

If you meet the requirements under Sec. 1031, there’s no current tax due on the exchange — except to the extent that you receive “boot” as part of the deal. Boot includes cash needed to “even things out” or other concessions of value (such as a reduction of mortgage debt). In some cases, cash may be combined with a valued benefit.

If you receive boot, you owe current tax on the amount equal to the lesser of:

On the other hand, if you’re the one paying boot, you won’t realize any taxable gain.

What Are the Requirements?

For these purposes, “like-kind” refers to the property’s nature or character. The prevailing tax regulations provide a liberal interpretation of what constitutes like-kind properties. For instance, you can exchange improved real estate for raw land, a strip mall for an apartment building or a marina for a golf course. It doesn’t have to be the exact same type of property (for example, a warehouse for a warehouse).

Timing is everything. The following two deadlines must be met for a like-kind exchange to qualify for tax-free treatment:

The 180-day period begins to run on the date of the transfer of legal ownership of the relinquished property. If that period straddles two tax years, it might be shortened by the tax return due date. So, if you give up title to the property in November or December this year, the due date for 2022 returns (April 18, 2023) would arrive before 180 days are up. Keep this in mind as the end of the year approaches.

Also, in the real world, it’s unlikely that you’ll own property that another person wants to acquire while he or she also owns property that you desire. These one-for-one exchanges are rare. The vast majority of Sec. 1031 real estate exchanges involve multiple parties. (See the sidebar, “Multiple-party exchanges.”)

Who Can Help?

Unless you’re an expert in the field, a Sec. 1031 exchange is not a do-it-yourself proposition. Enlist the services of professionals, including your CPA, who can provide the assistance you need.

Sidebar: Multiple-Party Exchanges

Depending on your situation, you might use a “qualified intermediary” to cement a Section 1031 exchange. Essentially, the qualified intermediary is a third party that helps facilitate the deal. The parties create an agreement whereby the qualified intermediary:

Note that the agreement must limit the taxpayer’s rights to receive, pledge, borrow or otherwise obtain benefits of cash or other property held by the intermediary. In addition, specific IRS reporting requirements must be met. Typically, the intermediary charges a fee based on the value of the properties.

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Businesses can provide benefits to employees that don’t cost them much or anything at all. However, in some cases, employees may have to pay tax on the value of these benefits.

Here are examples of two types of benefits which employees generally can exclude from income:

However, many fringe benefits are taxable, meaning they’re included in the employees’ wages and reported on Form W-2. Unless an exception applies, these benefits are subject to federal income tax withholding, Social Security (unless the employee has already reached the year’s wage base limit) and Medicare.

Court Case Provides Lessons

The line between taxable and nontaxable fringe benefits may not be clear. As illustrated in one recent case, some taxpayers get into trouble if they cross too far over the line.

A retired airline pilot received free stand-by airline tickets from his former employer for himself, his spouse, his daughter, and two other adult relatives. The value of the tickets provided to the adult relatives was valued $5,478. The airline reported this amount as income paid to the retired pilot on Form 1099-MISC, which it filed with the IRS. The taxpayer and his spouse filed a joint tax return for the year in question but didn’t include the value of the free tickets in gross income.

The IRS determined that the couple was required to include the value of the airline tickets provided to their adult relatives in their gross income. The retired pilot argued the value of the tickets should be excluded as a de minimis fringe.

The U.S. Tax Court agreed with the IRS that the taxpayers were required to include in gross income the value of airline tickets provided to their adult relatives. The value, the court stated, didn’t qualify for exclusion as a no-additional-cost service because the adult relatives weren’t the taxpayers’ dependent children. In addition, the value wasn’t excludable under the tax code as a de minimis fringe benefit “because the tickets had a value high enough that accounting for their provision was not unreasonable or administratively impracticable.” (TC Memo 2022-36)

You may be able to exclude from wages the value of certain fringe benefits that your business provides to employees. But the requirements are strict. If you have questions about the tax implications of fringe benefits, contact us.

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You and your small business are likely to incur a variety of local transportation costs each year. There are various tax implications for these expenses.

First, what is “local transportation?” It refers to travel in which you aren’t away from your tax home (the city or general area in which your main place of business is located) long enough to require sleep or rest. Different rules apply if you’re away from your tax home for significantly more than an ordinary workday and you need sleep or rest in order to do your work.

Costs of Traveling to Your Work Location

The most important feature of the local transportation rules is that your commuting costs aren’t deductible. In other words, the fare you pay or the miles you drive simply to get to work and home again are personal and not business miles. Therefore, no deduction is available. This is the case even if you work during the commute (for example, via a cell phone, or by performing business-related tasks while on the subway).

An exception applies for commuting to a temporary work location that’s outside of the metropolitan area in which you live and normally work. “Temporary,” for this purpose, means a location where your work is realistically expected to last (and does in fact last) for no more than a year.

Costs of Traveling From Work Location to Other Sites

On the other hand, once you get to the work location, the cost of any local trips you take for business purposes is a deductible business expense. So, for example, the cost of travel from your office to visit a customer or pick up supplies is deductible. Similarly, if you have two business locations, the costs of traveling between them is deductible.

Recordkeeping

If your deductible trip is by taxi or public transportation, save a receipt if possible or make a notation of the expense in a logbook. Record the date, amount spent, destination, and business purpose. If you use your own car, note miles driven instead of the amount spent. Note also any tolls paid or parking fees and keep receipts.

You’ll need to allocate your automobile expenses between business and personal use based on miles driven during the year. Proper recordkeeping is crucial in the event the IRS challenges you.

Your deduction can be computed using:

Employees Versus Self-Employed

From 2018 – 2025, employees, may not deduct unreimbursed local transportation costs. That’s because “miscellaneous itemized deductions” — a category that includes employee business expenses — are suspended (not allowed) for 2018 through 2025. However, self-employed taxpayers can deduct the expenses discussed in this article. But beginning with 2026, business expenses (including unreimbursed employee auto expenses) of employees are scheduled to be deductible again, as long as the employee’s total miscellaneous itemized deductions exceed 2% of adjusted gross income.

Contact us with any questions or to discuss the matter further.

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Estate planning usually starts with a Last Will and Testament, a legal document that spells out how you want your assets to be distributed and other affairs handled after you die. A will is a good first step in estate planning, but it’s not necessarily the best option in every situation.

For California residents, trusts can be especially beneficial. In this article, we’ll discuss why you might want to consider setting up a trust or updating your existing trust if you haven’t looked at it in a while.

What is a Living Trust?

While there are many different kinds of trusts, a living trust is one of the most popular types for estate planning.

A living trust is a legal entity that distributes your property to people and organizations after you pass away. Once you establish a living trust, you fund it by putting your assets in the trust’s name. You can put all kinds of assets into a living trust, including real estate, investments, stock from closely held corporations, certificates of deposit (CDs), life insurance, personal property, collectibles, and more.

Living trusts may be revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts are more popular for estate planning, as they’re flexible and can be changed any time during your lifetime (as long as you are competent). Irrevocable trusts typically can’t be changed without a court order or approval of the trust’s beneficiaries.

Why is it Important to Have a Trust?

Revocable living trusts are particularly beneficial for California residents for two main reasons.

Probate Records are Open to the Public

Currently, probate is generally required for all estates in California valued at more than $184,500 unless all the assets are in a trust. (For deaths prior to April 1, 2022, the maximum value of an estate was $166,250.) There are a few exceptions. For example, property owned jointly automatically transfers to the surviving owner, and life insurance policies and retirement accounts go to the beneficiaries, as long as they are correctly designated.

Other assets must go through probate, including real estate, personal property, and bank and investment accounts. In California, anyone can view probate records, so setting up a trust can help you and your loved ones maintain privacy.

High Probate Costs

Probate attorney fees are set by statute in California, and they’re based on a percentage of the value of assets that go through probate.

Currently, those rates are:

For value above $25 million, the court determines a “reasonable amount.”

California real estate is expensive so going through probate can be costly based on the value of a residence alone.

For example, say you own a home valued at $1,000,000—roughly the median home price in San Diego. Based on the value of your residence alone, your estate’s probate fees would be:

The attorney’s statutory fee would be $23,000, even if they just file paperwork.

This fee applies even if the home is fully mortgaged since it’s based on the gross amount of probate assets.

Is it Time to Review Your Trust?

If you already have a trust but haven’t looked at it in a while, now is a good time to review it with your attorney.

Many life events can impact how you want to distribute your estate, so it’s essential to ensure your trust and other estate planning documents are up to date.

In general, we recommend reviewing your trust every three to five years or after any of the following life events:

We also recommend working with an estate planning attorney to draft or revise a trust. Many clients think they can save money by using a trust form found on the internet, but estate planning is complex, and trusts are governed by state law. The short-term savings from a DIY approach aren’t worth the expensive problems it can create down the road.

If you’d like a referral to an estate planning attorney, would like us to review your trust documents for tax consequences, or need help with a trust tax return, reach out to a Hamilton Tharp advisor.

IRS audit rates are historically low, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. Plus, the IRS recently received additional funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to improve customer service, upgrade technology and increase audits of high-income taxpayers. But with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.

From tax years 2010 to 2019, audit rates of individual tax returns decreased for all income levels, according to the GAO. On average, the audit rate for all returns decreased from 0.9% to 0.25%. IRS officials attribute this to reduced staffing as a result of decreased funding. Businesses, large corporations, and high-income individuals are more likely to be audited, but overall, all types of audits are being conducted less frequently than they were a decade ago.

There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t be picked for an audit because some tax returns are chosen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare in advance. On an ongoing basis, you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, canceled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items to be reported on your tax returns. Keep all records in one place.

Audit Targets

It also helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS. Certain types of tax-return entries are known to involve inaccuracies, so they may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:

Certain types of deductions may be questioned by the IRS because there are strict recordkeeping requirements for them — for example, auto and travel expense deductions. In addition, an owner-employee’s salary that’s much higher or lower than those at similar companies in his or her location may catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

If You Receive a Letter

If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS doesn’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

Many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve claimed. Only the strictest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited emails or text messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)

The tax agency doesn’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. Collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If anything is missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If you’re audited, our firm can help you:

The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and an audit probably won’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if the IRS contacts you. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to tracking, documenting and filing your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit less painful and even decrease the chances you’ll be chosen in the first place.

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Does your business need real estate to conduct operations? Or does it otherwise hold property and put the title in the name of the business? You may want to rethink this approach. Any short-term benefits may be outweighed by the tax, liability, and estate planning advantages of separating real estate ownership from the business.

Tax Implications

Businesses that are formed as C corporations treat real estate assets as they do equipment, inventory and other business assets. Any expenses related to owning the assets appear as ordinary expenses on their income statements and are generally tax deductible in the year they’re incurred.

However, when the business sells the real estate, the profits are taxed twice — at the corporate level and at the owner’s individual level when a distribution is made. Double taxation is avoidable, though. If ownership of the real estate were transferred to a pass-through entity instead, the profit upon sale would be taxed only at the individual level.

Protectin Assets

Separating your business ownership from its real estate also provides an effective way to protect it from creditors and other claimants. For example, if your business is sued and found liable, a plaintiff may go after all of its assets, including real estate held in its name. But plaintiffs can’t touch property owned by another entity.

The strategy also can pay off if your business is forced to file for bankruptcy. Creditors generally can’t recover real estate owned separately unless it’s been pledged as collateral for credit taken out by the business.

Estate Planning Options

Separating real estate from a business may give you some estate planning options, too. For example, if the company is a family business but some members of the next generation aren’t interested in actively participating, separating property gives you an extra asset to distribute. You could bequest the business to one heir and the real estate to another family member who doesn’t work in the business.

Handling the Transaction

The business simply transfers ownership of the real estate and the transferee leases it back to the company. Who should own the real estate? One option: The business owner could purchase the real estate from the business and hold title in his or her name. One concern is that it’s not only the property that’ll transfer to the owner, but also any liabilities related to it.

Moreover, any liability related to the property itself could inadvertently put the business at risk. If, for example, a client suffers an injury on the property and a lawsuit ensues, the property owner’s other assets (including the interest in the business) could be in jeopardy.

An alternative is to transfer the property to a separate legal entity formed to hold the title, typically a limited liability company (LLC) or limited liability partnership (LLP). With a pass-through structure, any expenses related to the real estate will flow through to your individual tax return and offset the rental income.

An LLC is more commonly used to transfer real estate. It’s simple to set up and requires only one member. LLPs require at least two partners and aren’t permitted in every state. Some states restrict them to certain types of businesses and impose other restrictions.

Proceed Cautiously

Separating the ownership of a business’s real estate isn’t always advisable. If it’s worthwhile, the right approach will depend on your individual circumstances. Contact us to help determine the best approach to minimize your transfer costs and capital gains taxes while maximizing other potential benefits.

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In today’s tough job market and economy, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) may help employers. Many business owners are hiring and should be aware that the WOTC is available to employers that hire workers from targeted groups who face significant barriers to employment. The credit is worth as much as $2,400 for each eligible employee ($4,800, $5,600, and $9,600 for certain veterans and $9,000 for “long-term family assistance recipients”). It’s generally limited to eligible employees who begin work for the employer before January 1, 2026.

The IRS recently issued some updated information on the pre-screening and certification processes. To satisfy a requirement to pre-screen a job applicant, a pre-screening notice must be completed by the job applicant and the employer on or before the day a job offer is made. This is done by filing Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice, and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit.

Which New Hires Qualify?

An employer is eligible for the credit only for qualified wages paid to members of a targeted group. These groups are:

Other Rules and Requirements

There are a number of requirements to qualify for the credit. For example, there’s a minimum requirement that each employee must have completed at least 120 hours of service for the employer. Also, the credit isn’t available for certain employees who are related to or who previously worked for the employer.

There are different rules and credit amounts for certain employees. The maximum credit available for the first-year wages is $2,400 for each employee, $4,000 for long-term family assistance recipients, and $4,800, $5,600, or $9,600 for certain veterans. Additionally, for long-term family assistance recipients, there’s a 50% credit for up to $10,000 of second-year wages, resulting in a total maximum credit of $9,000 over two years.

For summer youth employees, the wages must be paid for services performed during any 90-day period between May 1 and September 15. The maximum WOTC credit available for summer youth employees is $1,200 per employee.

A Beneficial Credit

In some cases, employers may elect not to claim the WOTC. And in limited circumstances, the rules may prohibit the credit or require an allocation of it. However, for most employers hiring from targeted groups, the credit can be beneficial. Contact us with questions or for more information about your situation.

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While the new research and development tax credit requirements went into effect on January 10, 2022, which require more detailed proof that claims are valid, many businesses seeking the refund may face extra work when applying for the credit on their next tax return.

Knowing the credit’s specificity requirements will allow businesses to ensure sufficient information is collected and filed with amended tax returns to provide proof for the claim. Putting processes in place to record these requirements throughout the year can help lessen the paperwork burden around tax time.

What Must be Submitted With the Claim?

Any business submitting an R&D tax credit claim must include detailed information about the funds for which they are requesting the credit and the business components related to the claim for the associated tax year.

For each business component, answer the following questions in detail:

The IRS has granted flexibility in how the information is presented, so businesses can use a list, table, or narrative.

In addition to the above questions, the IRS requires a business to provide tax-year totals for:

These expenses are outlined on Form 6765 (Credit for Increasing Research Activities) and must be completed appropriately to qualify for the credit.

The final piece of information the IRS requires is a signed declaration verifying that all facts provided in the report and on the tax forms are accurate.

What Happens if There’s Missing Information?

If the IRS finds information is missing or requires additional clarification, it will request what is needed by letter. Businesses and taxpayers have 45 days from being notified, instead of the traditional 30 days, to remedy the situation.

If the business misses the window or does not provide sufficient information at that point, the IRS can deny the R&D tax credit claim.

After January 9, 2023, the IRS will no longer allow a perfection period. This mean means claims must be complete and accurate when submitted; otherwise, they are considered untimely if corrected after the deadline. The IRS advises that “taxpayers should take extra precaution to substantiate their credit for a refund claim.”

For assistance with the new research and development tax credit requirements as they apply to your business, reach out to our team to set up a time for a consultation.

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2022. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

Note: Certain tax-filing and tax-payment deadlines may be postponed for taxpayers who reside in or have businesses in federally declared disaster areas.

Monday, October 3

The last day you can initially set up a SIMPLE IRA plan, provided you (or any predecessor employer) didn’t previously maintain a SIMPLE IRA plan. If you’re a new employer that comes into existence after October 1 of the year, you can establish a SIMPLE IRA plan as soon as administratively feasible after your business comes into existence.

Monday, October 17

Monday, October 31

Thursday, November 10

Thursday, December 15

Contact us if you’d like more information about the filing requirements and to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines.

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Now that Labor Day has passed, it’s a good time to think about making moves that may help lower your small business taxes for this year and next. The standard year-end approach of deferring income and accelerating deductions to minimize taxes will likely produce the best results for most businesses, as will bunching deductible expenses into this year or next to maximize their tax value.

If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket next year, opposite strategies may produce better results. For example, you could pull income into 2022 to be taxed at lower rates, and defer deductible expenses until 2023, when they can be claimed to offset higher-taxed income.

Here are some other ideas that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end.

QBI Deduction

Taxpayers other than corporations may be entitled to a deduction of up to 20% of their qualified business income (QBI). For 2022, if taxable income exceeds $340,100 for married couples filing jointly (half that amount for others), the deduction may be limited based on: whether the taxpayer is engaged in a service-type business (such as law, health or consulting), the amount of W-2 wages paid by the business, and/or the unadjusted basis of qualified property (such as machinery and equipment) held by the business. The limitations are phased in.

Taxpayers may be able to salvage some or all of the QBI deduction by deferring income or accelerating deductions to keep income under the dollar thresholds (or be subject to a smaller deduction phaseout). You also may be able increase the deduction by increasing W-2 wages before year-end. The rules are complex, so consult us before acting.

Cash vs. Accrual Accounting

More small businesses are able to use the cash (rather than the accrual) method of accounting for federal tax purposes than were allowed to do so in previous years. To qualify as a small business under current law, a taxpayer must (among other requirements) satisfy a gross receipts test. For 2022, it’s satisfied if, during a three-year testing period, average annual gross receipts don’t exceed $27 million. Not that long ago, it was only $5 million. Cash method taxpayers may find it easier to defer income by holding off billings until next year, paying bills early or making certain prepayments.

Section 179 Deduction

Consider making expenditures that qualify for the Section 179 expensing option. For 2022, the expensing limit is $1.08 million, and the investment ceiling limit is $2.7 million. Expensing is generally available for most depreciable property (other than buildings) including equipment, off-the-shelf computer software, interior improvements to a building, HVAC and security systems.

The high dollar ceilings mean that many small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to currently deduct most or all of their outlays for machinery and equipment. What’s more, the deduction isn’t prorated for the time an asset is in service during the year. Just place eligible property in service by the last days of 2022 and you can claim a full deduction for the year.

Bonus Depreciation

Businesses also can generally claim a 100% bonus first year depreciation deduction for qualified improvement property and machinery and equipment bought new or used, if purchased and placed in service this year. Again, the full write-off is available even if qualifying assets are in service for only a few days in 2022.

Consult With Us for More Ideas

These are just some year-end strategies that may help you save taxes. Contact us to tailor a plan that works for you.

© 2022

The business entity you choose can affect your taxes, your personal liability, and other issues. A limited liability company (LLC) is somewhat of a hybrid entity in that it can be structured to resemble a corporation for owner liability purposes and a partnership for federal tax purposes. This duality may provide you with the best of both worlds.

Like the shareholders of a corporation, the owners of an LLC (called “members” rather than shareholders or partners) generally aren’t liable for business debts except to the extent of their investment. Thus, they can operate the business with the security of knowing that their personal assets are protected from the entity’s creditors. This protection is far greater than that afforded by partnerships. In a partnership, the general partners are personally liable for the debts of the business. Even limited partners, if they actively participate in managing the business, can have personal liability.

Check-the-Box Rules

LLC owners can elect under the check-the-box rules to have the entity treated as a partnership for federal tax purposes. This can provide a number of important benefits to them. For example, partnership earnings aren’t subject to an entity-level tax. Instead, they “flow through” to the owners, in proportion to the owners’ respective interests in profits, and are reported on the owners’ individual returns, and are taxed only once. To the extent the income passed through to you is qualified business income, you’ll be eligible to take the Section 199A pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations.

In addition, since you’re actively managing the business, you can deduct on your individual tax return your ratable shares of any losses the business generates. This, in effect, allows you to shelter other income that you (and your spouse, if you’re married) may have.

An LLC that’s taxable as a partnership can provide special allocations of tax benefits to specific partners. This can be an important reason for using an LLC over an S corporation (a form of business that provides tax treatment that’s similar to a partnership). Another reason for using an LLC over an S corporation is that LLCs aren’t subject to the restrictions the federal tax code imposes on S corporations regarding the number of owners and the types of ownership interests that may be issued.

Explore the Options

In summary, an LLC would give you corporate-like protection from creditors while providing you with the benefits of taxation as a partnership. Be aware that the LLC structure is allowed by state statute, and states may use different regulations. Contact us to discuss in more detail how use of an LLC might benefit you and the other owners.

© 2022

A key provision of the American Rescue Plan Act passed in 2021 includes lowering the thresholds that trigger a Form 1099-K – Payment Card and Third-Party Network Transactions. This means businesses and individuals may receive this form for tax year 2022, something they may not have seen in previous years.

New Form 1099-K Guidelines

For tax years before January 1, 2022, third-party processors were required to file a Form 1099-K when sales-related transactions exceeded both $20,000 and 200 in number. Beginning in 2023, third-party processors, including Venmo, PayPal, Square, Zelle, and others, must use this form to report when sales-related transactions exceed $600, regardless of how many transactions are involved.

Businesses, Individuals That May Be Affected

Organizations dealing with credit cards, cash, or checks most likely will not receive a Form 1099-K. However, if an organization uses third-party organizations, which includes many gig-economy jobs such as Uber and Lyft, or online retailers such as eBay and Etsy, there’s a chance they’ll see this form arrive with their tax documents for tax year 2022. Funds sent by friends and family are not included in the $600 threshold.

Bookkeeping, Tax Considerations

Businesses and individuals need to pay attention to how they manage their books and transactions from these payment types to make tax filing easier for the next tax season. Correctly logging any income received can help prevent unexpected tax bills in the future.

Form 1099-K is used to report the total amount of transactions received, and the form does not include calculations for credits, discounts, fees, and/or returns. Properly tracking income and debits will help business owners and individuals deduct these business costs come tax time.

If an individual receives Form 1099-K, it may help to file a Schedule C with their Form 1040. Our tax professionals can help identify if this is the best course of action and any additional benefits a Schedule C may offer.

Form 1099-K Errors

With the new threshold, third-party settlement companies may increase the number of tax document issues, which may lead them to create new infrastructure to help with their reporting accuracy. As with any large change, there may be growing pains, which means potential errors on some of the forms issued.

Some of the expected errors include:

If you receive Form 1099-K and suspect an error, contact the Payment Settlement Entity (third-party settlement company) and request a corrected Form 1099-K. Keep a copy of the original and corrected forms and any communication with your tax documents.

There is no need to panic if you receive a Form 1099-K for the first time. Simply reach out to Hamilton Tharp for more help.

Most individuals saving for retirement outside of a defined work plan use an Individual Retirement Account, better known as an IRA. These accounts come with two vastly different types, depending on what tax benefits account holders would like to take advantage of. The first, the Traditional IRA, allows the account holder to deduct contributions made during the tax year, thus lowering their adjusted gross income (AGI). The Roth IRA, on the other hand, is funded with post-tax dollars, and money can be withdrawn after retirement age completely tax-free.

Don’t fret! If the Roth IRA sounds like a better option for you, but you have money in a Traditional IRA account, you could potentially convert it to a Roth IRA. Below, you’ll discover the basics of how to convert the account and why now might be a good time to do so.

Roth IRAs: An Overview

Roth IRAs offer a way for savers to put aside money for retirement using post-tax dollars. Because of this, the contributions cannot be used as a tax deduction, and withdrawals on deposits and gains are tax-free after retirement age (59 ½). Contributions to a Roth IRA begin at $6,000 and decrease the higher your income. Once a married couple reaches $214,000 in AGI, the ability to contribute directly to a Roth IRA is eliminated.

Converting to a Roth IRA

Traditional IRA accounts can be converted to Roth IRA accounts so that the money in the account can then grow tax-free. In addition to the tax-free gains, there are several other benefits of a Roth IRA, including:

The process is typically simple.

The funds are transferred directly from a Traditional IRA to a separate ROTH IRA. Tax will be due on the amount transferred; however, growth with the market recovery will now be in your non-taxable account.

In short, converting a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA can hold several tax and wealth management benefits for account holders. Completing the process when the stock market has dipped, and income tax rates are low can decrease the tax liability on the transferred balance, making the IRA conversion more advantageous to investors.

To discuss your specific situation and whether a Roth IRA conversion is the best move for you, reach out to our team of tax professionals today!

 

Please note that the information provided in this article is current as of July 2022. It is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code. Consult with your financial advisor about your specific situation.

 

Do you own a successful small business with no employees and want to set up a retirement plan? Or do you want to upgrade from a SIMPLE IRA or Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan? Consider a solo 401(k) if you have healthy self-employment income and want to contribute substantial amounts to a retirement nest egg.

This strategy is geared toward self-employed individuals, including sole proprietors, owners of single-member limited liability companies, and other one-person businesses.

Go it Alone

With a solo 401(k) plan, you can potentially make large annual deductible contributions to a retirement account.

For 2022, you can make an “elective deferral contribution” of up to $20,500 of your net self-employment (SE) income to a solo 401(k). The elective deferral contribution limit increases to $27,000 if you’ll be 50 or older as of December 31, 2022. The larger $27,000 figure includes an extra $6,500 catch-up contribution that’s allowed for these older owners.

On top of your elective deferral contribution, an additional contribution of up to 20% of your net SE income is permitted for solo 401(k)s. This is called an “employer contribution,” though there’s technically no employer when you’re self-employed. (The amount for employees is 25%.) For purposes of calculating the employer contribution, your net SE income isn’t reduced by your elective deferral contribution.

For the 2022 tax year, the combined elective deferral and employer contributions can’t exceed:

Net SE income equals the net profit shown on Form 1040 Schedule C, E or F for the business minus the deduction for 50% of self-employment tax attributable to the business.

Pros and Cons

Besides the ability to make large deductible contributions, another solo 401(k) advantage is that contributions are discretionary. If cash is tight, you can contribute a small amount or nothing.

In addition, you can borrow from your solo 401(k) account, assuming the plan document permits it. The maximum loan amount is 50% of the account balance or $50,000, whichever is less. Some other plan options, including SEPs, don’t allow loans.

The biggest downside to solo 401(k)s is their administrative complexity. Significant upfront paperwork and some ongoing administrative efforts are required, including adopting a written plan document and arranging how and when elective deferral contributions will be collected and paid into the owner’s account. Also, once your account balance exceeds $250,000, you must file Form 5500-EZ with the IRS annually.

If your business has one or more employees, you can’t have a solo 401(k). Instead, you must have a multi-participant 401(k) with all the resulting complications. The tax rules may require you to make contributions for those employees. However, there’s an important loophole: You can exclude employees who are under 21 and employees who haven’t worked at least 1,000 hours during any 12-month period from 401(k) plan coverage.

Bottom line: For a one-person business, a solo 401(k) can be a smart retirement plan choice if:

Before you establish a solo 401(k), weigh the pros and cons of other retirement plans — especially if you’re 50 or older. Solo 401(k)s aren’t simple, but they can allow you to make substantial and deductible contributions to a retirement nest egg. Contact us before signing up to determine what’s best for your situation.

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The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law by President Biden on August 16, contains many provisions related to climate, energy, and taxes. There has been a lot of media coverage about the law’s impact on large corporations. For example, the IRA contains a new 15% alternative minimum tax on large, profitable corporations. And the law adds a 1% excise tax on stock buybacks of more than $1 million by publicly traded U.S. corporations.

But there are also provisions that provide tax relief for small businesses. Here are two:

A Payroll Tax Credit for Research

Under current law, qualified small businesses can elect to claim a portion of their research credit as a payroll tax credit against their employer Social Security tax liability rather than against their income tax liability. This became effective for tax years that begin after December 31, 2015.

Qualified small businesses that elect to claim the research credit as a payroll tax credit do so on IRS Form 8974, “Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities.” Currently, a qualified small business can claim up to $250,000 of its credit for increasing research activities as a payroll tax credit against the employer’s share of Social Security tax.

The IRA makes changes to the credit beginning next year. It allows for qualified small businesses to apply an additional $250,000 in qualifying research expenses as a payroll tax credit against the employer share of Medicare. The credit can’t exceed the tax imposed for any calendar quarter, with unused amounts of the credit carried forward. This provision will take effect for tax years beginning after December 31, 2022.

A qualified small business must meet certain requirements, including having gross receipts under a certain amount.

Extension of the Limit on Excess Business Losses of Noncorporate Taxpayers

Another provision in the new law extends the limit on excess business losses for noncorporate taxpayers. Under prior law, there was a cap set on business loss deductions by noncorporate taxpayers. For 2018 through 2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limited deductions for net business losses from sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers). Losses in excess of those amounts (which are adjusted annually for inflation) may be carried forward to future tax years under the net operating loss rules.

Although another law (the CARES Act) suspended the limit for 2018, 2019 and 2020 tax years, it’s now back in force and has been extended through 2028 by the IRA. Businesses with significant losses should consult with us to discuss the impact of this change on their tax planning strategies.

We Can Help

These are only two of the many provisions in the IRA. There may be other tax benefits to your small business if you’re buying electric vehicles or green energy products. Contact us if you have questions about the new law and your situation.

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As you’re aware, certain employers are required to report information related to their employees’ health coverage. Does your business have to comply, and if so, what must be done?

Basic Rules

Certain employers with 50 or more full-time employees (called “applicable large employers” or ALEs) must use Forms 1094-C and 1095-C to report the information about offers of health coverage and enrollment in health coverage for their employees. Specifically, an ALE uses Form 1094-C to report summary information for each employee and to transmit Forms 1095-C to the IRS. A separate Form 1095-C is used to report information about each employee. In addition, Forms 1094-C and 1095-C are used to determine whether an employer owes payments under the employer shared responsibility provisions (sometimes referred to as the “employer mandate”).

Under the mandate, an employer can be subject to a penalty if it doesn’t offer affordable minimum essential coverage that provides minimum value to substantially all full-time employees and their dependents. Form 1095-C is also used in determining eligibility of employees for premium tax credits.

Information Reported

On Form 1095-C, ALEs must report the following for each employee who was a full-time employee for any month of the calendar year:

If an ALE offers health coverage through an employer’s self-insured plan, the ALE also must report more information on Form 1095-C. For this purpose, a self-insured plan also includes one that offers some enrollment options as insured arrangements and other options as self-insured.

If an employer provides health coverage in another manner, such as through an insured health plan or a multiemployer health plan, the insurance issuer or the plan sponsor making the coverage available will provide the information about health coverage to enrolled employees. An employer that provides employer-sponsored self-insured health coverage but isn’t subject to the employer mandate isn’t required to file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C and reports instead on Forms 1094-B and 1095-B for employees who enrolled in the employer-sponsored self-insured health coverage.

On Form 1094-C, an employer can also indicate whether any certifications of eligibility for relief from the employer mandate apply.

Be aware that these reporting requirements may be more complex if your business is a member of an aggregated ALE group or if the coverage is provided through a multiemployer plan.

W-2 Reporting 

Note: Employers also report certain information about health coverage on employees’ W-2 forms. But it’s not the same information as what’s reported on 1095-C. The information on either form doesn’t cause excludable employer-provided coverage to become taxable to employees. It’s for informational purposes only.

The above is a simplified explanation of the reporting requirements. Contact us with questions or for assistance in complying with the requirements.

© 2022

The House of Representatives passed The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Friday, August 12, and President Joe Biden signed into law August 16. The legislation, which is a pared-down version of the proposed Build Back Better plan, was passed through the budget reconciliation process and is expected to pay for itself and decrease the budget deficit.

Key provisions in the IRA include funding for clean energy tax credits, an infusion of funds to the Internal Revenue Service, changes to Medicare prescription drug policies, and new corporate taxes.

Read on to learn about how these provisions could impact your business.

New Corporate Taxes

Lawmakers built several new tax provisions into the IRA to fund programs the bill introduces, modifies, or extends. In conjunction with the IRS measures listed below, these taxes are expected to fully fund the program and decrease the budget deficit. The two main taxes are:

Research Credits to Payroll Taxes

Currently, the research tax credit allows for up to $250,000 to be deducted against qualifying payroll taxes which do not include the Medicare portion of FICA taxes. The IRA expands this credit to a $500,000 limit that also includes Medicare payroll taxes.

This goes into effect for tax years beginning after December 31, 2022, and allows for unused credit amounts to be carried forward in certain circumstances.

Renewable, Clean Energy Tax Provisions

Much of the funding for the IRA – about $370 billion – is dedicated to green or renewable energy tax deductions. Of that amount, $60 billion is earmarked for growing the renewable energy infrastructure within manufacturing targeted at solar panels and wind turbines.

The IRA also modifies and extends through 2024 tax credits for producing electricity from qualified renewable resources, investments in qualified energy properties, and using alternative fuels and fuel mixtures (including biodiesel and renewable diesel).

New tax credits will be available in the coming years for the production and/or sale of:

With the modifications, businesses that use energy-efficient commercial buildings may see additional tax deduction opportunities. The IRS introduces a new credit for commercial clean vehicles and modifies the refundable tax credit on plug-in electric vehicle purchases.

The IRA provides funds so the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can create a greenhouse gas reduction fund and support existing programs that provide financial incentives to reduce air pollution emissions. These include replacing eligible medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with zero emissions options, identifying and reducing emissions from diesel engines, and monitoring air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Increased Tax Enforcement, Customer Service

The IRA provides additional funding for the IRS to hire more customer service representatives, processors, and auditors to decrease the time it takes to process returns for each tax year, lessen the hold times for taxpayers calling in, and increase audits. Audits are expected to target larger businesses and individuals with higher incomes.

The Inflation Reduction Act is expansive and could affect many business tax strategies. We’ll keep you updated as new information comes to light. In the meantime, consider scheduling your annual tax strategy review with one of our tax professionals to discuss how the IRA could impact your business.

Tax deadlines seem to sneak up on some people. Maybe you’re busy handling other business or personal matters, or perhaps you’re waiting on one last piece of information before calling your tax advisor for an appointment. Our clients know that we do everything in our power to get their tax returns filed on time but getting your paperwork to us early offers several benefits.

Let’s take a look at those benefits now.

Mistakes Are Less Likely to Happen

At Hamilton Tharp, we work hard to ensure every tax return that goes out the door is accurate and error-free. But it’s human nature that mistakes happen when people work long hours and rush to get work done before a deadline.

Hopefully, reviewers catch those mistakes before the tax return is sent to the client for review. But in the worst-case scenario, an error escapes notice until after the return has been filed, and we need to amend the return.

Getting your paperwork in early ensures our preparers and reviewers have the time and energy to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

You Avoid IRS Notices

IRS notices are never fun to deal with, and they’re especially bothersome when they’re entirely avoidable.

For example, say you had less than $10 of interest income from a savings account in the prior year, but you don’t include the 1099-INT with your tax documents this year. Since your tax preparer is up against a deadline, they mistakenly assume you closed the account or didn’t earn any interest from it.

In fact, the balance in your account was significantly higher this year, and you earned more interest but forgot to download the tax form. As a result, you receive a notice from the IRS requesting you to pay the additional tax owed, plus interest and penalties.

If the preparer had more time, they would follow up on the missing 1099-INT to ensure it’s not overlooked.

You Have What You Need to Fill Out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

If you have college-age children, you’re likely familiar with the FAFSA. The FAFSA filing season opens each year on October 1. If you file your return by the April 15 deadline (or shortly thereafter), you have the tax information you need to submit your FAFSA early.

Clients sometimes run into issues when they go on extension, then put off getting us the information needed to complete and file their return until just before the October 15 extended deadline. Even if we can get your tax return filed quickly, there’s no guarantee that the IRS will process it, which can cause problems with your FAFSA if the U.S. Department of Education selects your application for verification.

Thwart Identity Thieves

Tax-related identity theft—where thieves use a victim’s Social Security number (SSN) to file a fraudulent return and claim a tax refund—is a growing problem. Often, the first indication a client has that their identity has been stolen is having their e-filed tax return rejected because someone else has already filed using their SSN.

Getting your tax documents to us early helps us file your tax returns before identity thieves have a chance. This also helps us avoid the last-minute scramble of getting signatures to file a paper return.

If you’re waiting on one last K-1, 1099, or another tax document, we recommend giving us what you have rather than waiting until you have everything. It’s much easier for us to get your return 99% complete early in the year and finalize it later than to get a pile of tax documents a week before the filing deadline.

It’s our goal to take the pain and stress of tax season off our client’s shoulders, and you can help us—by getting your paperwork to your tax advisor early. If you need help figuring out what documents you need or have another tax question, reach out to a Hamilton Tharp advisor.

Beginning January 1, 2022, the IRS has updated its 1099-K regulations to require all businesses that process payments to file a 1099-K for all sellers with more than $600 in gross sales in a calendar year.  The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 requires that sales completed on all e-commerce platforms —including Ticketmaster, StubHub, etc. — are subject to reporting to the IRS as of 01/01/2022. This means that any seller or fan earning more than $600 annually as a result of a sale, or sales, through any U.S. marketplace is required to complete a 1099 form.

In order to generate a complete Form 1099-K as required by state and federal tax laws, many of these sites will need your Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). Your TIN is typically either your Social Security Number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN) for businesses.

If you meet these reporting requirements, you will receive a 1099-K at the beginning of each year. The same information will be sent to the IRS and state tax agencies where applicable.  Be sure to keep track of the expenses as well, since these can be used to offset the income of the 1099-K.

For more information, please visit: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/understanding-your-form-1099-k

These days, most businesses have websites. But surprisingly, the IRS hasn’t issued formal guidance on when website costs can be deducted.

Fortunately, established rules that generally apply to the deductibility of business costs provide business taxpayers launching a website with some guidance as to the proper treatment of the costs. Plus, businesses can turn to IRS guidance that applies to software costs.

Hardware versus software

Let’s start with the hardware you may need to operate a website. The costs fall under the standard rules for depreciable equipment. Specifically, once these assets are operating, you can deduct 100% of the cost in the first year they’re placed in service (before 2023). This favorable treatment is allowed under the 100% first-year bonus depreciation break. Note: The bonus depreciation rate will begin to be phased down for property placed in service after calendar year 2022.

In later years, you can probably deduct 100% of these costs in the year the assets are placed in service under the Section 179 first-year depreciation deduction privilege. However, Sec. 179 deductions are subject to several limitations.

For tax years beginning in 2022, the maximum Sec. 179 deduction is $1.08 million, subject to a phaseout rule. Under the rule, the deduction is phased out if more than a specified amount ($2.7 million for 2022) of qualified property is placed in service during the year.

There’s also a taxable income limit. Under it, your Sec. 179 deduction can’t exceed your business taxable income. In other words, Sec. 179 deductions can’t create or increase an overall tax loss. However, any Sec. 179 deduction amount that you can’t immediately deduct is carried forward and can be deducted in later years (to the extent permitted by the applicable limits).

Similar rules apply to purchased off-the-shelf software. However, software license fees are treated differently from purchased software costs for tax purposes. Payments for leased or licensed software used for your website are currently deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Software developed internally

If, instead of being purchased, the website is designed in-house by the taxpayer launching the website (or designed by a contractor who isn’t at risk if the software doesn’t perform), for tax years beginning before calendar year 2022, bonus depreciation applies to the extent described above. If bonus depreciation doesn’t apply, the taxpayer can either:

For tax years beginning after calendar year 2021, generally, the only allowable treatment will be to amortize the costs over the five-year period beginning with the midpoint of the tax year in which the expenditures are paid or incurred.

If your website is primarily for advertising, you can currently deduct internal website software development costs as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Paying a third party

Some companies hire third parties to set up and run their websites. In general, payments to third parties are currently deductible as ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Before business begins

Start-up expenses can include website development costs. Up to $5,000 of otherwise deductible expenses that are incurred before your business commences can generally be deducted in the year business commences. However, if your start-up expenses exceed $50,000, the $5,000 current deduction limit starts to be chipped away. Above this amount, you must capitalize some, or all, of your start-up expenses and amortize them over 60 months, starting with the month that business commences.

We can help

We can determine the appropriate treatment of website costs. Contact us if you want more information.

© 2022

With inflation rates reaching historical highs and driving up the cost of doing business, business owners are seeking out creative ways to fight inflation. The Series I Savings Bond is one tool that’s been getting some buzz.

Also known as I Bonds, these low-risk savings products depend on higher inflation to produce better returns. The higher the inflation rate, the more interest you earn, rendering the investment inflation-proof.

And they’re not just available to individuals. Business owners can buy I Bonds for multiple entities, including corporations and partnerships.

There are rules specific to I Bonds, and there are more tax considerations for businesses than for individuals. To take full advantage of I Bonds, business owners must know the compliance and reporting rules.

How I Bonds work

A Series I Savings Bond is a security that earns interest based on both a fixed rate and a variable rate based on inflation. The fixed rate will remain for the life of the bond, whereas the variable changes every six months based on inflation levels measured in the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

I Bonds will earn interest for up to 30 years if they aren’t cashed out before then.

I Bonds vs. inflation

One of the advantages of I Bonds is they shield money from inflation. Based on current rates, the returns on an I bond are slightly outpacing the rate of inflation.

The U.S. inflation rate reached 9.1% in June, a 40-year high for the cost of the nation’s goods and services. By comparison, the current interest rate on new Series I savings bonds is 9.62% where it will remain through October 2022.

It’s worth noting this rate applies to the six months after the bond is purchased. So even if you buy an I Bond in October 2022, the bond will earn 9.62% interest for the next six months.

When leveraged and reported appropriately, I Bonds can generate respectable returns.

How to Buy I Bonds

While individuals can purchase I bonds electronically and in paper form (up to $5,000 each year by using their federal income tax refund), businesses, including corporations, partnerships, and other entities, can only do so in electronic form.

To purchase I bonds electronically, buyers must set up an account on TreasuryDirect, the federal government’s clearinghouse for purchasing and cashing in U.S. savings bonds, where they can purchase up to $10,000 in electronic bonds each year. However, if you own multiple business entities, each one can buy up to the $10,000 maximum, as long as the money is in a separate account for each business.

If you’re buying both personal and business I Bonds, keep them in separate accounts and avoid transferring funds from one account to another if you have purchased the annual maximum for both.

Tax Considerations

Series I Bonds are not subject to state or local taxes, but federal taxes are required on any interest you earn. You can choose between one of two methods to pay these taxes:

Any interest you earn on an I bond must be reported on Schedule B of Form 1040.

Gifting

There are considerable differences when it comes to tax breaks for individuals and businesses:

Cashing in

The minimum term of ownership for an I Bond is one year. If you redeem your bond before the five-year mark, you will forfeit the interest from the previous three months. There is no interest penalty after that point.

I Bond compliance and reporting can get complicated, especially when managing a business in a challenging financial climate. If you need help navigating the savings bond landscape, our team of professionals can help you take full advantage of this investment vehicle.

Sometimes, bigger isn’t better: Your small- or medium-sized business may be eligible for some tax breaks that aren’t available to larger businesses. Here are some examples.

QBI deduction

For 2018 through 2025, the qualified business income (QBI) deduction is available to eligible individuals, trusts, and estates. But it’s not available to C corporations or their shareholders.

The QBI deduction can be up to 20% of:

Pass-through business entities report tax items to their owners, who then take them into account on their owner-level returns. The QBI deduction rules are complicated, and the deduction can be phased out at higher income levels.

Eligibility for cash-method accounting

Businesses that are eligible to use the cash method of accounting for tax purposes have the ability to fine-tune annual taxable income. This is accomplished by timing the year in which you recognize taxable income and claim deductions.

Under the cash method, you generally don’t have to recognize taxable income until you’re paid in cash. And you can generally write off deductible expenses when you pay them in cash or with a credit card.

Only “small” businesses are potentially eligible for the cash method. For this purpose under current law, a small business includes one that has no more than $25 million of average annual gross receipts, based on the preceding three tax years. This limit is adjusted annually for inflation. For tax years beginning in 2022, the limit is $27 million.

Section 179 deduction 

The Sec. 179 first-year depreciation deduction potentially allows you to write off some (or all) of your qualified asset additions in the first year they’re placed in service. It’s available for both new and used property.

For qualified property placed in service in tax years 2018 and beyond, the deduction rules are much more favorable than under prior law. Enhancements include:

Higher deduction. The Sec. 179 deduction has been permanently increased to $1 million with annual inflation adjustments. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, the maximum is $1.08 million.

Liberalized phase-out. The threshold above which the maximum Sec. 179 deduction begins to be phased out is $2.5 million with annual inflation adjustments. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, the phase-out begins at $2.7 million.

The phase-out rule kicks in only if your additions of assets that are eligible for the deduction for the year exceed the threshold for that year. If they exceed the threshold, your maximum deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the excess. Sec. 179 deductions are also subject to other limitations.

Bonus depreciation

While Sec. 179 deductions may be limited, those limitations don’t apply to first-year bonus depreciation deductions. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, 100% first-year bonus depreciation is available. After this year, the first-year bonus depreciation percentages are scheduled to start going down to 80% for qualified assets placed in service in 2023. They will continue to be reduced until they reach 0% for 2028 and later years.

Contact us to determine if you’re taking advantage of all available tax breaks, including those that are available to small and large businesses alike.

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A business or individual might be able to dispose of appreciated real property without being taxed on the gain by exchanging it rather than selling it. You can defer tax on your gain through a “like-kind” or Section 1031 exchange.

A like-kind exchange is a swap of real property held for investment or for productive use in your trade or business for like-kind investment real property or business real property. For these purposes, “like-kind” is very broadly defined, and most real property is considered to be like-kind with other real property. However, neither the relinquished property nor the replacement property can be real property held primarily for sale. If you’re unsure whether the property involved in your exchange is eligible for a like-kind exchange, contact us to discuss the matter.

Here’s how the tax rules work

If it’s a straight asset-for-asset exchange, you won’t have to recognize any gain from the exchange. You’ll take the same “basis” (your cost for tax purposes) in the replacement property that you had in the relinquished property. Even if you don’t have to recognize any gain on the exchange, you still have to report the exchange on a form that is attached to your tax return.

However, the properties often aren’t equal in value, so some cash or other (non-like-kind) property is thrown into the deal. This cash or other property is known as “boot.” If boot is involved, you’ll have to recognize your gain, but only up to the amount of boot you receive in the exchange. In these situations, the basis you get in the like-kind replacement property you receive is equal to the basis you had in the relinquished property you gave up reduced by the amount of boot you received but increased by the amount of any gain recognized.

Here’s an example 

Let’s say you exchange land (investment property) with a basis of $100,000 for a building (investment property) valued at $120,000 plus $15,000 in cash. Your realized gain on the exchange is $35,000: You received $135,000 in value for an asset with a basis of $100,000. However, since it’s a like-kind exchange, you only have to recognize $15,000 of your gain: the amount of cash (boot) you received. Your basis in the new building (the replacement property) will be $100,000, which is your original basis in the relinquished property you gave up ($100,000) plus the $15,000 gain recognized, minus the $15,000 boot received.

Note: No matter how much boot is received, you’ll never recognize more than your actual (“realized”) gain on the exchange.

If the property you’re exchanging is subject to debt from which you’re being relieved, the amount of the debt is treated as boot. The theory is that if someone takes over your debt, it’s equivalent to him or her giving you cash. Of course, if the replacement property is also subject to debt, then you’re only treated as receiving boot to the extent of your “net debt relief” (the amount by which the debt you become free of exceeds the debt you pick up).

Like-kind exchanges can be complex, but they’re a good tax-deferred way to dispose of investment or trade or business assets. We can answer any additional questions you have or assist with the transaction.

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Sadly, many businesses have been forced to shut down recently due to the pandemic and the economy. If this is your situation, we can assist you, including taking care of the various tax responsibilities that must be met.

Of course, a business must file a final income tax return and some other related forms for the year it closes its doors. The type of return to be filed depends on the type of business you have. Here’s a rundown of the basic requirements.

Sole proprietorships.  You’ll need to file the usual Schedule C, “Profit or Loss from Business,” with your individual return for the year you close the business. You may also need to report self-employment tax.

Partnerships. A partnership must file Form 1065, “U.S. Return of Partnership Income,” for the year it closes. You also must report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. Indicate that this is the final return and do the same on Schedule K-1, “Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.”

All corporations. Form 966, “Corporate Dissolution or Liquidation,” must be filed if you adopt a resolution or plan to dissolve a corporation or liquidate any of its stock.

C corporations.  File Form 1120, “U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return,” for the year you close. Report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. Indicate this is the final return.

S corporations. File Form 1120-S, “U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation,” for the year of closing. Report capital gains and losses on Schedule D. The “final return” box must be checked on Schedule K-1.

All businesses. Other forms may need to be filed to report sales of business property and asset acquisitions if you sell your business.

Employees and contract workers 

If you have employees, you must pay them final wages and compensation owed, make final federal tax deposits and report employment taxes. Failure to withhold or deposit employee income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes can result in full personal liability for what’s known as the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty.

If you’ve paid any contractors at least $600 during the calendar year in which you close your business, you must report those payments on Form 1099-NEC, “Nonemployee Compensation.”

Other tax issues

If your business has a retirement plan for employees, you’ll want to terminate the plan and distribute benefits to participants. There are detailed notice, funding, timing, and filing requirements that must be met by a terminating plan. There are also complex requirements related to flexible spending accounts, Health Savings Accounts, and other programs for your employees.

We can assist you with many other complicated tax issues related to closing your business, including debt cancellation, use of net operating losses, freeing up any remaining passive activity losses, depreciation recapture, and possible bankruptcy issues.

We can advise you on the length of time you need to keep business records. You also must cancel your Employer Identification Number (EIN) and close your IRS business account.

If your business is unable to pay all the taxes it owes, we can explain the available payment options to you. Contact us to discuss these issues and get answers to any questions.

© 2022

Although merger and acquisition activity has been down in 2022, according to various reports, there are still companies being bought and sold. If your business is considering merging with or acquiring another business, it’s important to understand how the transaction will be taxed under current law.

Stocks vs. assets

From a tax standpoint, a transaction can basically be structured in two ways:

1. Stock (or ownership interest). A buyer can directly purchase a seller’s ownership interest if the target business is operated as a C or S corporation, a partnership, or a limited liability company (LLC) that’s treated as a partnership for tax purposes.

The current 21% corporate federal income tax rate makes buying the stock of a C corporation somewhat more attractive. Reasons: The corporation will pay less tax and generate more after-tax income than it would have years ago. Plus, any built-in gains from appreciated corporate assets will be taxed at a lower rate when they’re eventually sold.

Under current law, individual federal tax rates are reduced from years ago and may also make ownership interests in S corporations, partnerships, and LLCs more attractive. Reason: The passed-through income from these entities also will be taxed at lower rates on a buyer’s personal tax return. However, individual rate cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2025, and, depending on future changes in Washington, they could be eliminated earlier or extended.

2. Assets. A buyer can also purchase the assets of a business. This may happen if a buyer only wants specific assets or product lines. And it’s the only option if the target business is a sole proprietorship or a single-member LLC that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes.

Note: In some circumstances, a corporate stock purchase can be treated as an asset purchase by making a “Section 338 election.” Ask your tax advisor for details.

What buyers and sellers want 

For several reasons, buyers usually prefer to purchase assets rather than ownership interests. Generally, a buyer’s main objective is to generate enough cash flow from an acquired business to pay any acquisition debt and provide an acceptable return on the investment. Therefore, buyers are concerned about limiting exposure to undisclosed and unknown liabilities and minimizing taxes after the deal closes.

A buyer can step up (increase) the tax basis of purchased assets to reflect the purchase price. Stepped-up basis lowers taxable gains when certain assets, such as receivables and inventory, are sold or converted into cash. It also increases depreciation and amortization deductions for qualifying assets.

Meanwhile, sellers generally prefer stock sales for tax and nontax reasons. One of their main objectives is to minimize the tax bill from a sale. That can usually be achieved by selling their ownership interests in a business (corporate stock or partnership or LLC interests) as opposed to selling business assets.

With a sale of stock or other ownership interest, liabilities generally transfer to the buyer, and any gain on sale is generally treated as lower-taxed long-term capital gain (assuming the ownership interest has been held for more than one year).

Keep in mind that other issues, such as employee benefits, can also cause unexpected tax issues when merging with, or acquiring, a business.

Get professional advice

Buying or selling a business may be the most important transaction you make during your lifetime, so it’s important to seek professional tax advice as you negotiate. After a deal is done, it may be too late to get the best tax results. Contact us for the best way to proceed in your situation.

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Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the third quarter of 2022. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

August 1

August 10 

September 15 

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Creating a budget is a crucial task for any business. It helps owners, executives, and managers estimate revenues and expenses, set goals, and closely monitor costs throughout the year.

Of course, budgets are just that — estimates. The final amounts for revenues and expenses at the end of the month, quarter, or year will almost certainly differ from budget projections. Those differences are called variances and analyzing those variances can give leaders a deeper understanding of a company’s financial well-being.

What is variance analysis?

Variance analysis investigates the differences between budgeted and actual results.

For example, if you budget for $1 million in sales and actual sales are $800,000, your variance is $200,000. Comparing your budget to actual results is a helpful first step but investigating the reason for the difference is essential.

These factors and others can contribute to variances, so taking the time to understand why fluctuations occur can help management know what they need to do to change the situation.

What causes budget variances?

Variances can occur for various reasons. Some of the most common include:

How is a variance analysis created?

Modern accounting software makes creating a variance analysis relatively straightforward. Most solutions include a budget-to-actual report that compares actual results to the budget and finds the difference between the two values as a number and a percentage.

You can then export this report to an Excel or Google spreadsheet, adding a column for explanations for any budget deviations.

The following best practices can make this process more manageable.

How often should you prepare variance reports?

The cadence with which you prepare variance reports will depend on the size of your company and management needs. A small business might only go through the process quarterly or annually.

On the other hand, a larger company or one that is experiencing rapid growth might perform the analysis every month.

At a minimum, you should review your budget to actual numbers every month, looking for unexpected discrepancies. This high-level review can help you quickly spot errors or identify trends so you can take action to keep the business on track.

Do you need help analyzing or setting up your variance reports? Give our team a call today to set up a strategy!

Unless you specialize in tax law, you’re probably not an accounting expert, but understanding accounting basics can help lawyers ensure their legal practice complies with ethics rules and accounting regulations.

Unlike other business owners, lawyers need to be familiar with two types of accounting: business and legal. While there is overlap between the two, there are differences, especially when handling client funds.

Differences between business and legal accounting

Business accounting is what law firms have in common with other businesses and includes expenses of running the law practice such as overhead, payroll, office rent, assets, liabilities, and equity.

Legal accounting is specific to law firms. It encompasses matter cost and income accounting — client costs, reimbursements, and fee income — as well as fee advances and retainer accounting.

Properly tracking the posting and reimbursement of matter costs is essential to ensure the firm’s accounting records are compliant. Law firms typically have two types of matter costs:

In accounting terms, any retainers received are liabilities — funds that haven’t yet been earned and still belong to someone else (the client).

Trust accounts are bank accounts set up specifically to hold client retainers.

General tips for accurate legal accounting

Consult with an Expert

Well-prepared and organized financial data not only helps with compliance but also offers critical insights into the operations of a law firm. Accountants can help law firms lay the foundation and establish best practices allowing firm leaders to focus on growing the firm.

Give our team a call if you need help ensuring you meet all of the regulatory requirements for your firm’s financial situation, including:

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in South Dakota vs. Wayfair, many states quickly enacted laws resembling South Dakota’s to collect sales tax on remote purchases.

While physical nexus remains the first consideration in whether businesses are legally bound to collect and remit sales taxes on online sales, most states have adopted “economic nexus” rules, stating a business’ tax obligations kick in after it crosses a set level of sales in terms of quantity, dollar amounts, or both.

Receiving an audit notice from a state tax authority is one of the worst feelings a small business can have. Unfortunately, as states pursue tax collection, sales and use tax audits have become a standard part of doing business.

If your business is undergoing a sales tax audit or is worried about dealing with one in the future, here are four tips to navigate, prepare for, and avoid a sales tax audit.

How to reduce the risk of a sales tax audit

Several factors can trigger a sales tax audit. Many states use systematic methods and data analytics to identify businesses at risk for underreporting or underpaying their sales taxes. According to Thomson Reuters, some of the most common triggers for a sales tax audit include:

Your business also might be randomly selected for audit, so there’s no sure-fire way to avoid facing a sales tax audit. However, familiarizing yourself with the sales and use tax laws in the states where you do business, analyzing your nexus exposure, and registering and paying taxes in the proper jurisdictions is a good first step.

How to prepare for a sales tax audit

Time is of the essence once you receive notice you’ve been selected for an audit. Gathering and preparing the appropriate records takes time, so you want to start the process immediately.

Documents requested in the IDR typically include:

If any requested items aren’t available or you don’t believe they apply to the audit, be prepared to explain your reasons for not providing them.

In addition to looking for potential underpayments, look for overpayments, such as using a higher sales tax rate or charging tax on non-taxable items. These can potentially offset any underpayments uncovered during the audit.

Being under the microscope of a sales tax audit is stressful and can take up a lot of time. A professional who is well versed in sales and use taxes and knows how to deal with auditors can be an invaluable member of your team. By crafting a game plan for the audit and managing auditor expectations, they can potentially save your business thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties.

These professionals typically know how to answer the auditor’s questions truthfully without volunteering extra information that can invite additional scrutiny.

Have you received notice that you’re a target for a sale tax audit, or are you worried you may be on the radar? Contact us today to help you prepare for and navigate the process!

There’s a valuable tax deduction available to a C corporation when it receives dividends. The “dividends-received deduction” is designed to reduce or eliminate an extra level of tax on dividends received by a corporation. As a result, a corporation will typically be taxed at a lower rate on dividends than on capital gains.

Ordinarily, the deduction is 50% of the dividend, with the result that only 50% of the dividend received is effectively subject to tax. For example, if your corporation receives a $1,000 dividend, it includes $1,000 in income, but after the $500 dividends-received deduction, its taxable income from the dividend is only $500.

The deductible percentage of a dividend will increase to 65% of the dividend if your corporation owns 20% or more (by vote and value) of the payor’s stock. If the payor is a member of an affiliated group (based on an 80% ownership test), dividends from another group member are 100% deductible. (If one or more members of the group is subject to foreign taxes, a special rule requiring consistency of the treatment of foreign taxes applies.) In applying the 20% and 80% ownership percentages, preferred stock isn’t counted if it’s limited and preferred as to dividends, doesn’t participate in corporate growth to a significant extent, isn’t convertible, and has limited redemption and liquidation rights.

If a dividend on stock that hasn’t been held for more than two years is an “extraordinary dividend,” the basis of the stock on which the dividend is paid is reduced by the amount that effectively goes untaxed because of the dividends-received deduction. If the reduction exceeds the basis of the stock, gain is recognized. (A dividend paid on common stock will be an extraordinary dividend if it exceeds 10% of the stock’s basis, treating dividends with ex-dividend dates within the same 85-day period as one.)

Holding period requirement

The dividends-received deduction is only available if the recipient satisfies a minimum holding period requirement. In general, this requires the recipient to own the stock for at least 46 days during the 91-day period beginning 45 days before the ex-dividend date. For dividends on preferred stock attributable to a period of more than 366 days, the required holding period is extended to 91 days during the 181-day period beginning 90 days before the ex-dividend date. Under certain circumstances, periods during which the taxpayer has hedged its risk of loss on the stock are not counted.

Taxable income limitation 

The dividends-received deduction is limited to a certain percentage of income. If your corporation owns less than 20% of the paying corporation, the deduction is limited to 50% of your corporation’s taxable income (modified to exclude certain items). However, if allowing the full (50%) dividends-received deduction without the taxable income limitation would result in (or increase) a net operating loss deduction for the year, the limitation doesn’t apply.

Illustrative example 

Let’s say your corporation receives $50,000 in dividends from a less-than-20% owned corporation and has a $10,000 loss from its regular operations. If there were no loss, the dividends-received deduction would be $25,000 (50% of $50,000). However, since taxable income used in computing the dividends-received deduction is $40,000, the deduction is limited to $20,000 (50% of $40,000).

Other rules apply if the dividend payor is a foreign corporation. Contact us if you’d like to discuss how to take advantage of this deduction.

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Technology has long made accounting easier, from the first adding machines to electronic spreadsheets to today’s cloud computing ecosystem. While recent advancements have allowed business owners and their accountants to collaborate efficiently from any location, they also created a growing cybersecurity risk that cyber insurance can help manage.

Cyberattacks Threaten All Organizations

According to a 2022 survey commissioned by CyberCatch, 75% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) could only survive three to seven days if they suffered a cyberattack.

Big businesses are frequent targets, and their security breaches tend to make headlines. But smaller businesses are easier prey for cybercriminals because they lack the complicated security infrastructure that larger businesses maintain.

The cost of a data breach can be devastating for small businesses. A data breach costs SMBs, on average, $101,000, according to Kaspersky’s IT Security Economics Report for 2020. That cost includes detecting and shutting down the attack, recovering lost data, notifying third parties, legal expenses related to the breach, and lost business.

Cloud accounting is more secure than having all your business’ accounting data on a desktop or device because providers typically deploy top-of-the-line security features. However, any system — cloud or otherwise — is only as strong as its weakest link. It only takes one user falling victim to a social engineering attack, using a weak password, or opening a malware-inflected attachment to give cybercriminals access to your payroll records, vendor and customer lists, bank account numbers, and more.

Manage the Risk with Cyber Insurance

Cyber insurance has become an increasingly important risk management tool for businesses. This insurance policy provides businesses with various coverage options to help recover from data breaches and other security issues.

While the exact coverages vary from policy to policy, cyber insurance typically covers two broad categories of losses:

Like any insurance policy, cyber insurance policies have exclusions. Typical cyber policy exclusions include lost future profits, the lost value related to intellectual property theft, and the cost of upgrading security after a data breach.

How to Buy Cyber Insurance

Most major commercial insurance carriers offer cyber insurance coverage, so reach out to your agent or broker to get a quote. But keep in mind while cyber insurance is increasingly essential coverage for most small businesses, it can also be difficult — and expensive — to buy.  According to Marsh, a New York City-based insurance broker, and advisor, cyber insurance premiums in the U.S. increased by an average of 96% from 2020 to 2021.

Following a few IT security best practices can reduce your risk and improve your chances of getting coverage at an affordable price. Those best practices include:

As technology evolves, so will your exposure to various types of cyber-risks. While cyber insurance coverage can be a critical part of managing those risks, it doesn’t replace security best practices. Take the necessary steps to protect your business to a better chance of minimizing your exposure.

The Internal Revenue Service will raise the optional standard mileage rate for the final six months of 2022 to help offset the rise in gas prices nationwide.

The new rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business and certain other purposes become effective July 1, 2022, and will remain in place through January 1, 2023. Those revised rates are:

Taxpayers should use the following rates for any miles traveled between January 1, 2022, and June 30, 2022:

The 14 cents per mile rate for charitable organizations remains unchanged as it is set by statute.

The IRS, which last made such an increase in 2011, noted it considered depreciation, insurance, and other fixed and variable costs in addition to the rising gas prices when raising the rates mid-year.

Businesses can use the standard mileage rate to calculate the deductible costs of operating qualified automobiles for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes.

 Important reminders and considerations

When reimbursing employees for miles driven, keep in mind the following reminders and considerations:

To review your organization’s mileage reimbursement policy and any alternate methods for calculating appropriate reimbursement amounts, reach out to our team of knowledgeable professionals today.

Here’s an interesting option if your small company or start-up business is planning to claim the research tax credit. Subject to limits, you can elect to apply all or some of any research tax credits that you earn against your payroll taxes instead of your income tax. This payroll tax election may influence some businesses to undertake or increase their research activities. On the other hand, if you’re engaged in or are planning to engage in research activities without regard to tax consequences, be aware that some tax relief could be in your future.

Here are some answers to questions about the option.

Why is the election important?

Many new businesses, even if they have some cash flow, or even net positive cash flow and/or a book profit, pay no income taxes and won’t for some time. Therefore, there’s no amount against which business credits, including the research credit, can be applied. On the other hand, a wage-paying business, even a new one, has payroll tax liabilities. The payroll tax election is thus an opportunity to get immediate use out of the research credits that a business earns. Because every dollar of credit-eligible expenditure can result in as much as a 10-cent tax credit, that’s a big help in the start-up phase of a business — the time when help is most needed.

Which businesses are eligible? 

To qualify for the election a taxpayer:

In making these determinations, the only gross receipts that an individual taxpayer takes into account are from his or her businesses. An individual’s salary, investment income or other income aren’t taken into account. Also, note that neither an entity nor an individual can make the election for more than six years in a row.

Are there limits on the election? 

Research credits for which a taxpayer makes the payroll tax election can be applied only against the employer’s old-age, survivors, and disability liability — the OASDI or Social Security portion of FICA taxes. So the election can’t be used to lower 1) the employer’s liability for the Medicare portion of FICA taxes or 2) any FICA taxes that the employer withholds and remits to the government on behalf of employees.

The amount of research credit for which the election can be made can’t annually exceed $250,000. Note too that an individual or C corporation can make the election only for those research credits which, in the absence of an election, would have to be carried forward. In other words, a C corporation can’t make the election for research credits that the taxpayer can use to reduce current or past income tax liabilities.

The above Q&As just cover the basics about the payroll tax election. And, as you may have already experienced, identifying and substantiating expenses eligible for the research credit itself is a complex area. Contact us for more information about the payroll tax election and the research credit.

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Attorney trust accounts serve an essential purpose: protecting clients’ funds by segregating them from the law firm’s operating accounts. Keeping client funds separate will help ensure they aren’t used for the attorney’s personal or business expenses — either inadvertently or intentionally.

Attorneys have a professional responsibility to manage these trust accounts in good faith, also known as Interest Only Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA). Failing to do so can have consequences, including disbarment. Since a firm doesn’t own the money in an IOLTA, misusing it is tantamount to theft. Considering the stakes involved, stay abreast of best practices for handling and accounting for client trust accounts.

Client Trust Fund Accounting Options

According to the National Law Review, client trust funds typically are used in three situations:

There are generally two ways to maintain IOLTA funds:

Either way, it’s crucial to keep track of the sources and uses for all funds.

Best Practices for Client Trust Fund Accounting

Following these best practices demonstrates you’re using the money legally and ethically and can help build trust with clients.

Each state has legal requirements for managing client funds and billing, so familiarize yourself with the laws in your state. At a minimum, every transaction in or out of your trust accounts should be accounted for — no matter how small—and you should be able to provide accurate and timely records for all trust accounts to the state bar upon request.

Business travel is back.

COVID restrictions have eased, and in-person conferences are back on the calendar. And as more people return to offices, companies are warming to sending their employees on work trips.

For many businesses, it’s been a minute since they’ve had to account for employee travel expenses. So it might be time for a refresher on which expenses are tax-deductible, which aren’t, and what pandemic-related tax incentives are available.

When is it business travel?

A trip is considered business travel when you travel outside what’s known as your “tax home.” The location of your tax home is the city or area of your primary place of business, regardless of where you live. For expenses to count as deductible travel costs, they have to be incurred away from your tax home for longer than a typical workday — but no longer than one year. Anything considered an “ordinary and necessary expense” of doing business would qualify.

As long as the expenses are business-related, most, if not all, expenses from a typical work trip can receive a tax deduction. So what is deductible?

Business Meals, Beverages

Perhaps the most significant change for business travel is a temporary tax incentive to encourage restaurant spending during the pandemic. Through the end of 2022, food and beverages from restaurants are 100% tax-deductible versus the usual 50% deduction for businesses. The 100% deduction applies to any restaurant meals and drinks purchased after December 31, 2020, and before January 1, 2023.

The IRS defines a restaurant as “a business that prepares and sells food or beverages to retail customers for immediate consumption, regardless of whether the food or beverages are consumed on the business’s premises.” The deduction includes:

Non-restaurant meals are still eligible for a 50% deduction, but the 100% deduction excludes prepackaged food and drinks from:

That means if you want to purchase a salad to go, buying it from a restaurant would get you a 100% deduction while buying it from a grocery store is only eligible for a 50% deduction.

Other rules for food and beverage deductions include:

Travel and Transportation

You can deduct 100% of the cost of any travel by airplane, train, bus, or car between your home and business destination. That includes car rental expenses. Also deductible is parking fees, tolls, and fares for taxis, shuttles, ferry rides, and other modes of transportation.

Hotels and Lodging

Hotel stays are tax-deductible, as are tips and fees for hotel staff and baggage carriers. Depending on how you schedule your trip, you may even be able to deduct lodging costs for non-workdays.

Shipping

You can write off costs for shipping baggage or any materials related to business operations.

Business Calls, Communication

Fees for calls, texts, or Wi-Fi usage during business travel are deductible.

Dry Cleaning, Laundry

Costs to launder work clothes on a business trip get a tax break.

Tips

Tips for services related to any of these expenses also qualify.

Gifts of up to $25

Gifts for clients or other business associates are included, although you can deduct no more than $25 per gift recipient. So if two clients each receive a $60 fruit basket, for a total of $120 spent on gifts, the company can write off $50 of the expense.

What Isn’t Deductible?

Tracking Expenses

To make the most of your tax deductions, collect receipts and keep detailed records of all travel expenses. Set a standard meal allowance for traveling employees and write off that amount to make meal tracking easier.

Managing business travel expenses and calculating deductions requires attention to detail, and businesses may be out of practice after two years with little to no travel. If you need help figuring out business travel deductions, our team of professionals can assist your business in getting back on track — and ready for takeoff.

The next quarterly estimated tax payment deadline is June 15 for individuals and businesses so it’s a good time to review the rules for computing corporate federal estimated payments. You want your business to pay the minimum amount of estimated taxes without triggering the penalty for underpayment of estimated tax.

Four methods

The required installment of estimated tax that a corporation must pay to avoid a penalty is the lowest amount determined under each of the following four methods:

Under the current year method, a corporation can avoid the estimated tax underpayment penalty by paying 25% of the tax shown on the current tax year’s return (or, if no return is filed, 25% of the tax for the current year) by each of four installment due dates. The due dates are generally April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year.

Under the preceding year method, a corporation can avoid the estimated tax underpayment penalty by paying 25% of the tax shown on the return for the preceding tax year by each of four installment due dates. (Note, however, that for 2022, certain corporations can only use the preceding year method to determine their first required installment payment. This restriction is placed on a corporation with taxable income of $1 million or more in any of the last three tax years.) In addition, this method isn’t available to corporations with a tax return that was for less than 12 months or a corporation that didn’t file a preceding tax year return that showed some tax liability.

Under the annualized income method, a corporation can avoid the estimated tax underpayment penalty if it pays its “annualized tax” in quarterly installments. The annualized tax is computed on the basis of the corporation’s taxable income for the months in the tax year ending before the due date of the installment and assuming income will be received at the same rate over the full year.

Under the seasonal income method, corporations with recurring seasonal patterns of taxable income can annualize income by assuming income earned in the current year is earned in the same pattern as in preceding years. There’s a somewhat complicated mathematical test that corporations must pass in order to establish that their income is earned seasonally and that they therefore qualify to use this method. If you think your corporation might qualify for this method, don’t hesitate to ask for our assistance in determining if it does.

Also, note that a corporation can switch among the four methods during a given tax year.

We can examine whether your corporation’s estimated tax bill can be reduced. Contact us if you’d like to discuss this matter further.

© 2022

Are you a partner in a business? You may have come across a situation that’s puzzling. In a given year, you may be taxed on more partnership income than was distributed to you from the partnership in which you’re a partner.

Why does this happen? It’s due to the way partnerships and partners are taxed. Unlike C corporations, partnerships aren’t subject to income tax. Instead, each partner is taxed on the partnership’s earnings — whether or not they’re distributed. Similarly, if a partnership has a loss, the loss is passed through to the partners. (However, various rules may prevent a partner from currently using his or her share of a partnership’s loss to offset other income.)

Pass through your share

While a partnership isn’t subject to income tax, it’s treated as a separate entity for purposes of determining its income, gains, losses, deductions, and credits. This makes it possible to pass through to partners their share of these items.

An information return must be filed by a partnership. On Schedule K of Form 1065, the partnership separately identifies income, deductions, credits, and other items. This is so that each partner can properly treat items that are subject to limits or other rules that could affect their correct treatment at the partner’s level. Examples of such items include capital gains and losses, interest expense on investment debts, and charitable contributions. Each partner gets a Schedule K-1 showing his or her share of partnership items.

Basis and distribution rules ensure that partners aren’t taxed twice. A partner’s initial basis in his or her partnership interest (the determination of which varies depending on how the interest was acquired) is increased by his or her share of partnership taxable income. When that income is paid out to partners in cash, they aren’t taxed on the cash if they have sufficient basis. Instead, partners just reduce their basis by the amount of the distribution. If a cash distribution exceeds a partner’s basis, then the excess is taxed to the partner as a gain, which often is a capital gain.

Illustrative example

Two people each contribute $10,000 to form a partnership. The partnership has $80,000 of taxable income in the first year, during which it makes no cash distributions to the two partners. Each of them reports $40,000 of taxable income from the partnership as shown on their K-1s. Each has a starting basis of $10,000, which is increased by $40,000 to $50,000. In the second year, the partnership breaks even (has zero taxable income) and distributes $40,000 to each of the two partners. The cash distributed to them is received tax-free. Each of them, however, must reduce the basis in his or her partnership interest from $50,000 to $10,000.

More rules and limits

The example and details above are an overview and, therefore, don’t cover all the rules. For example, many other events require basis adjustments and there are a host of special rules covering noncash distributions, distributions of securities, liquidating distributions, and other matters. Contact us if you’d like to discuss how a partner is taxed.

© 2022

The State of California now requires businesses with five or more employees to either offer an employee retirement plan or participate in the CalSavers Retirement Savings Program by June 30, 2022. CalSavers is a state-based payroll withholding savings program using Roth (post-tax) individual retirement accounts. All employers with five or more employees must either register with CalSavers or offer a qualifying retirement plan.

The CalSavers program has been rolled out in phases, and the state is already issuing penalty notices to businesses that missed the earlier deadlines or failed to allow eligible employees to participate in the retirement savings program.  The penalties are significant:

Eligible employers must register with the program via the program website (employer.CalSavers.com) or by calling 855-650-6916.

Employers have the following options:

  1. Participate in the CalSavers retirement savings program. This is a state program with a ROTH IRA— an individual retirement account with lower contribution limits than a 401(k) plan. The employer has administrative responsibilities and employers participating in the program are not eligible for SECURE Act tax credits.
  2. Enroll in a retirement plan, like a 401k or Simple IRA. 401(k) plans allow employees to contribute more than three times the amount of an IRA ($20,500 versus $6,000). And, new 401(k) plans may be eligible for up to $15,000 in SECURE Act1 tax credits.
  3. Already offer a retirement plan? Visit the CalSavers website to register as an Exempt Employer.
  4. Determine if Payroll Provider is an API for CalSavers. If your business has already chosen to participate in CalSavers, you will need to report IRA contributions and employee changes every pay period. As an Automatic Payroll Integration (API) provider for the state of California, many payroll providers can help make managing the IRA easier and more affordable.

 

We can work with you to determine the best retirement solutions to fit your needs. Please contact us at 858.481.7702 for further assistance.

California enacted Assembly Bill 150 (“AB 150”) in late 2021 as a method for deducting state and local taxes in excess of federal deduction limitations. AB 150 allowed passthrough entities (“PTEs”) to have the tax imposed and paid at the entity level rather than at the individual level, which permitted PTE owners to bypass the deduction limitation. For those owners who have elected to participate in this program, PTEs pay the tax on the qualified net income and their owners receive a corresponding credit against the state income tax liability related to their PTE income. Any unused credit at the owner level may be carried forward for up to five years.

Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 113 (“SB 113”) on February 9, 2022, which modified and expanded the passthrough entity elective tax benefits previously established under AB 150. The goal of SB 113 was to add clarity and conformity to the state’s original objectives for establishing the PTE credit.

The PTE election is made annually on the original filed return, including extensions. For tax years 2022 through 2025, the first PTE installment payment is due June 15th of each year, and is equal to the greater of:

The second PTE elective tax installment is due by the entity’s tax return due date (without extensions), which for most partnerships, LLCs, and S corps will be March 15, 2023.

If a payment is not made by June 15th, the election may not be made and the pass-through entity and owners may not participate in the program for that corresponding tax year.

There are many unanswered questions surrounding the PTE program. For example, since many 2021 returns will not be filed by June 15th, taxpayers may not know what 50% of the 2021 tax will actually be. If a good faith estimate is paid on June 15 but ends up being short of the 50% when the 2021 return is filed, the 2022 PTE election is invalid.

Hamilton Tharp is recommending that taxpayers add more funds to ensure that they do not underpay the tax. If the PTE did not participate in the program for 2021, but the owners of the PTE are fairly certain they will want to participate in the PTE program for 2022, we are recommending the payment be made with all available financial information or the $1,000.

If you have any questions, please contact us. In most cases, if you or your firm qualify to participate in this program, we have already reached out and discussed the payments.

The IRS recently released guidance providing the 2023 inflation-adjusted amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). High inflation rates will result in next year’s amounts being increased more than they have been in recent years.

HSA basics

An HSA is a trust created or organized exclusively for the purpose of paying the “qualified medical expenses” of an “account beneficiary.” An HSA can only be established for the benefit of an “eligible individual” who is covered under a “high deductible health plan.” In addition, a participant can’t be enrolled in Medicare or have other health coverage (exceptions include dental, vision, long-term care, accident, and specific disease insurance).

A high deductible health plan (HDHP) is generally a plan with an annual deductible that isn’t less than $1,000 for self-only coverage and $2,000 for family coverage. In addition, the sum of the annual deductible and other annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid under the plan for covered benefits (but not for premiums) can’t exceed $5,000 for self-only coverage and $10,000 for family coverage.

Within specified dollar limits, an above-the-line tax deduction is allowed for an individual’s contribution to an HSA. This annual contribution limitation and the annual deductible and out-of-pocket expenses under the tax code are adjusted annually for inflation.

Inflation adjustments for next year 

In Revenue Procedure 2022-24, the IRS released the 2023 inflation-adjusted figures for contributions to HSAs, which are as follows:

Annual contribution limitation. For calendar year 2023, the annual contribution limitation for an individual with self-only coverage under an HDHP will be $3,850. For an individual with family coverage, the amount will be $7,750. This is up from $3,650 and $7,300, respectively, for 2022.

In addition, for both 2022 and 2023, there’s a $1,000 catch-up contribution amount for those who are age 55 and older at the end of the tax year.

High deductible health plan defined. For calendar year 2023, an HDHP will be a health plan with an annual deductible that isn’t less than $1,500 for self-only coverage or $3,000 for family coverage (these amounts are $1,400 and $2,800 for 2022). In addition, annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) won’t be able to exceed $7,500 for self-only coverage or $15,000 for family coverage (up from $7,050 and $14,100, respectively, for 2022).

Reap the rewards

There are a variety of benefits to HSAs. Contributions to the accounts are made on a pre-tax basis. The money can accumulate tax free year after year and can be withdrawn tax free to pay for a variety of medical expenses such as doctor visits, prescriptions, chiropractic care, and premiums for long-term care insurance. In addition, an HSA is “portable.” It stays with an account holder if he or she changes employers or leaves the workforce. If you have questions about HSAs at your business, contact your employee benefits and tax advisors.

© 2022

The IRS has begun mailing notices to businesses, financial institutions, and other payers that filed certain returns with information that doesn’t match the agency’s records.

These CP2100 and CP2100A notices are sent by the IRS twice a year to payers who filed information returns that are missing a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), have an incorrect name, or have a combination of both.

Each notice has a list of persons who received payments from the business with identified TIN issues.

If you receive one of these notices, you need to compare the accounts listed on the notice with your records and correct or update your records, if necessary. This can also include correcting backup withholding on payments made to payees.

Which returns are involved? 

Businesses, financial institutions, and other payers are required to file with the IRS various information returns reporting certain payments they make to independent contractors, customers, and others. These information returns include:

Do you have backup withholding responsibilities?

The CP2100 and CP2100A notices also inform recipients that they’re responsible for backup withholding. Payments reported on the information returns listed above are subject to backup withholding if:

Do you have to report payments to independent contractors?

By January first of the following year, payers must complete Form 1099-NEC, “Nonemployee Compensation,” to report certain payments made to recipients. If the following four conditions are met, you must generally report payments as nonemployee compensation:

Contact us if you receive a CP2100 or CP2100A notice from the IRS or if you have questions about filing Form 1099-NEC. We can help you stay in compliance with all rules.

© 2022

As U.S. companies struggle to recruit, hire, and retain talent, more businesses are turning to independent contractors instead of full-time employees. But understanding the difference between an employee and an independent contractor can be complex.

Getting it right is critical because misclassifying workers – intentionally or not – can result in penalties including, but not limited to, fines and back taxes. If the IRS believes a misclassification was intentional, there’s also the possibility of criminal and civil penalties.

There’s no single test at the federal level to determine a worker’s classification. Studies show that 10% to 20% of employers misclassify at least one employee. At its most basic level, the question boils down to this: Is the worker an employee or an independent contractor?

What the IRS Says

The IRS defines an independent contractor as someone who performs work for someone else while controlling how the work is done. The Internal Revenue Code defines an employee for employment tax purposes as “any individual who, under the usual common-law rules, applicable in determining the employer-employee relationship, has the status of an employee.”

Under this test, an individual is classified in one of the two buckets after examining relevant facts and circumstances and an application of common law principles. The IRS analyzes the evidence of the degree of control and independence through three overarching categories:

No one factor stands alone in making this determination and the relevant factors will vary depending on the facts and circumstances.

If it is still unclear whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor after reviewing the three categories of evidence, file Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding, with the IRS. The form may be filed by either the business or the worker, and the IRS will review the facts and circumstances and officially determine the worker’s status.

The IRS cautions it can take at least six months to get a determination.

Penalties for Misclassifying

If the misclassification was unintentional, the employer faces, at a minimum, the following penalties:

If the IRS suspects fraud or intentional misconduct, it can impose additional fines and penalties. The employer could be subject to criminal penalties of up to $10,000 per misclassified worker and one year in prison. In addition, the person responsible for withholding taxes could also be held personally liable for any uncollected tax.

Tips for Employers

Take pre-emptive steps to avoid worker misclassification issues by:

Remember, a worker’s classification may be different under the Fair Labor Standards Act than under various state laws, the National Labor Relations Act, and/or the Internal Revenue Code. Workers who are properly classified as independent contractors under one state’s test may not be properly classified under another’s.

Employers should ensure proper classification of their workers and remain cognizant of and comply with applicable state and local laws, which may be different from federal law.

Does your organization need help classifying or ensuring your workers are classified correctly? Contact our team today!

From Super Bowl commercials to teenage NFT millionaires — and even Elon Musk’s support of the dog meme-inspired currency Dogecoin — cryptoassets have been making a play for mainstream acceptance.

By the end of 2021, the global cryptocurrency market was worth more than $3 trillion, up from $14 billion just five years earlier. About 16% of U.S. adults — approximately 40 million people — have invested in, traded, or used cryptocurrency, according to a White House analysis of findings by The Pew Research Center. And more than 100 countries are exploring or piloting Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), a digital form of a country’s sovereign currency.

Cryptoassets have been taking off so quickly that President Biden signed an executive order in March outlining a government approach to address the risks and harness the benefits of cryptocurrency while urging the research and development of a U.S. Central Digital Bank Currency.

Yet, for all the attention cryptoassets are receiving, many business leaders are still trying to understand what they are, how they work, and the pros and cons of using them.

What Are Cryptoassets?
Cryptocurrency is any digital or virtual currency that uses encryption to secure and verify transactions. What sets cryptocurrencies apart from traditional forms of currency is that they rely on a decentralized, unregulated system to issue them and record transactions.

Because a central issuing authority such as a bank or regulatory authority like the federal government doesn’t control these currencies, cryptoassets can avoid government manipulation or intervention.

Types of cryptoassets include:

How Do Cryptoassets Work?

Instead of relying on banks, cryptoassets leverage decentralized networks based on blockchain technology for distribution. Blockchain is a distributed public ledger that records all digital and virtual transactions.

Since cryptoassets are not tangible, people who possess them instead own a key — a secret, randomly generated number with hundreds of digits — that allows them to move cryptoassets from one entity to another without the intervention of a financial institution.

What Are the Pros, Cons of Cryptoassets?

 Decentralization is one of the key selling points of cryptoassets. Because developers control who uses them, they aren’t beholden to regulatory and government controls and interventions. That means there isn’t one entity that can dictate the currency’s value and distribution.

Other benefits include:

There are also some drawbacks, the least of which is a shortfall of protection. Although cryptoassets proponents prefer the currency because of its lack of government control, that same lack of regulation puts cryptoassets owners at risk of tremendous losses. There is no FDIC protection for cryptocurrency, nor is there a way to safeguard digital assets if a tech issue wipes out your transaction records. Insurance policies are available, but ultimately, it’s up to a business to protect itself against losses.

Other concerns include:

Cryptoassets are still in their infancy, and business leaders who may want to use them are learning as they go. If you’re trying to wrap your head around cryptoassets, our team of professionals can help your business navigate this new form of currency.

What are the tax consequences of selling property used in your trade or business?

There are many rules that can potentially apply to the sale of business property. Thus, to simplify discussion, let’s assume that the property you want to sell is land or depreciable property used in your business, and has been held by you for more than a year. (There are different rules for property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business; intellectual property; low-income housing; property that involves farming or livestock; and other types of property.)

General rules

Under the Internal Revenue Code, your gains and losses from sales of business property are netted against each other. The net gain or loss qualifies for tax treatment as follows:

1) If the netting of gains and losses results in a net gain, then long-term capital gain treatment results, subject to “recapture” rules discussed below. Long-term capital gain treatment is generally more favorable than ordinary income treatment.

2) If the netting of gains and losses results in a net loss, that loss is fully deductible against ordinary income (in other words, none of the rules that limit the deductibility of capital losses apply).

Recapture rules 

The availability of long-term capital gain treatment for business property net gain is limited by “recapture” rules — that is, rules under which amounts are treated as ordinary income rather than capital gain because of previous ordinary loss or deduction treatment for these amounts.

There’s a special recapture rule that applies only to business property. Under this rule, to the extent you’ve had a business property net loss within the previous five years, any business property net gain is treated as ordinary income instead of as long-term capital gain.

Section 1245 Property 

“Section 1245 Property” consists of all depreciable personal property, whether tangible or intangible, and certain depreciable real property (usually, real property that performs specific functions). If you sell Section 1245 Property, you must recapture your gain as ordinary income to the extent of your earlier depreciation deductions on the asset.

Section 1250 Property

“Section 1250 Property” consists, generally, of buildings and their structural components. If you sell Section 1250 Property that was placed in service after 1986, none of the long-term capital gain attributable to depreciation deductions will be subject to depreciation recapture. However, for most noncorporate taxpayers, the gain attributable to depreciation deductions, to the extent it doesn’t exceed business property net gain, will (as reduced by the business property recapture rule above) be taxed at a rate of no more than 28.8% (25% as adjusted for the 3.8% net investment income tax) rather than the maximum 23.8% rate (20% as adjusted for the 3.8% net investment income tax) that generally applies to long-term capital gains of non-corporate taxpayers.

Other rules may apply to Section 1250 Property, depending on when it was placed in service.

As you can see, even with the simplifying assumptions in this article, the tax treatment of the sale of business assets can be complex. Contact us if you’d like to determine the tax consequences of specific transactions or if you have any additional questions.

© 2022

Operating as an S corporation may help reduce federal employment taxes for small businesses in the right circumstances. Although S corporations may provide tax advantages over C corporations, there are some potentially costly tax issues that you should assess before making a decision to switch.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most important issues to consider when converting from a C corporation to an S corporation:

Built-in gains tax

Although S corporations generally aren’t subject to tax, those that were formerly C corporations are taxed on built-in gains (such as appreciated property) that the C corporation has when the S election becomes effective if those gains are recognized within 5 years after the corporation becomes an S corporation. This is generally unfavorable, although there are situations where the S election still can produce a better tax result despite the built-in gains tax.

Passive income 

S corporations that were formerly C corporations are subject to a special tax if their passive investment income (such as dividends, interest, rents, royalties, and stock sale gains) exceeds 25% of their gross receipts, and the S corporation has accumulated earnings and profits carried over from its C corporation years. If that tax is owed for three consecutive years, the corporation’s election to be an S corporation terminates. You can avoid the tax by distributing the accumulated earnings and profits, which would be taxable to shareholders. Or you might want to avoid the tax by limiting the amount of passive income.

LIFO inventories 

C corporations that use LIFO inventories have to pay tax on the benefits they derived by using LIFO if they convert to S corporations. The tax can be spread over four years. This cost must be weighed against the potential tax gains from converting to S status.

Unused losses

If your C corporation has unused net operating losses, the losses can’t be used to offset its income as an S corporation and can’t be passed through to shareholders. If the losses can’t be carried back to an earlier C corporation year, it will be necessary to weigh the cost of giving up the losses against the tax savings expected to be generated by the switch to S status.

There are other factors to consider in switching from C to S status. Shareholder-employees of S corporations can’t get the full range of tax-free fringe benefits that are available with a C corporation. And there may be complications for shareholders who have outstanding loans from their qualified plans. All of these factors have to be considered to understand the full effect of converting from C to S status.

There are strategies for eliminating or minimizing some of these tax problems and for avoiding unnecessary pitfalls related to them. But a lot depends upon your company’s particular circumstances. Contact us to discuss the effect of these and other potential problems, along with possible strategies for dealing with them.

© 2022

Typically, businesses want to delay recognition of taxable income into future years and accelerate deductions into the current year. But when is it prudent to do the opposite? And why would you want to?

One reason might be tax law changes that raise tax rates. There have been discussions in Washington about raising the corporate federal income tax rate from its current flat 21%. Another reason may be because you expect your non-corporate pass-through entity business to pay taxes at higher rates in the future because the pass-through income will be taxed on your personal return. There have also been discussions in Washington about raising individual federal income tax rates.

If you believe your business income could be subject to tax rate increases, you might want to accelerate income recognition into the current tax year to benefit from the current lower tax rates. At the same time, you may want to postpone deductions into a later tax year, when rates are higher, and when the deductions will do more tax-saving good.

To accelerate income

Consider these options if you want to accelerate revenue recognition into the current tax year:

To defer deductions

Consider the following actions to postpone deductions into a higher-rate tax year, which will maximize their value:

Contact us to discuss the best tax planning actions in light of your business’s unique tax situation.

© 2022

The federal government is helping to pick up the tab for certain business meals. Under a provision that’s part of one of the COVID-19 relief laws, the usual deduction for 50% of the cost of business meals is doubled to 100% for food and beverages provided by restaurants in 2022 (and 2021).

So, you can take a customer out for a business meal or order take-out for your team and temporarily write off the entire cost — including the tip, sales tax and any delivery charges.

Basic rules

Despite eliminating deductions for business entertainment expenses in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), a business taxpayer could still deduct 50% of the cost of qualified business meals, including meals incurred while traveling away from home on business. (The TCJA generally eliminated the 50% deduction for business entertainment expenses incurred after 2017 on a permanent basis.)

To help struggling restaurants during the pandemic, the Consolidated Appropriations Act doubled the business meal deduction temporarily for 2021 and 2022. Unless Congress acts to extend this tax break, it will expire on December 31, 2022.

Currently, the deduction for business meals is allowed if the following requirements are met:

In the event that food and beverages are provided during an entertainment activity, the food and beverages must be purchased separately from the entertainment. Alternatively, the cost can be stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills.

So, if you treat a client to a meal and the expense is properly substantiated, you may qualify for a business meal deduction as long as there’s a business purpose to the meal or a reasonable expectation that a benefit to the business will result.

Provided by a restaurant

IRS Notice 2021-25 explains the main rules for qualifying for the 100% deduction for food and beverages provided by a restaurant. Under this guidance, the deduction is available if the restaurant prepares and sells food or beverages to retail customers for immediate consumption on or off the premises. As a result, it applies to both on-site dining and take-out and delivery meals.

However, a “restaurant” doesn’t include a business that mainly sells pre-packaged goods not intended for immediate consumption. So, food and beverage sales are excluded from businesses including:

The restriction also applies to an eating facility located on the employer’s business premises that provides meals excluded from an employee’s taxable income. Business meals purchased from such facilities are limited to a 50% deduction. It doesn’t matter if a third party is operating the facility under a contract with the business.

Keep good records

It’s important to keep track of expenses to maximize tax benefits for business meal expenses.

You should record the:

In addition, ask establishments to divvy up the tab between any entertainment costs and food/ beverages. For additional information, contact your tax advisor.

© 2022

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines that apply to businesses and other employers during the second quarter of 2022. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

April 18

May 2

May 10

June 15 

© 2022

The start of a new tax filing season often brings with it longer hold times with the IRS, as taxpayers and their tax preparers inundate phone lines with questions and concerns. But the 2022 filing season promises to be particularly challenging.

The IRS continues to work through a backlog of millions of paper-filed returns and correspondence from the 2021 tax filing season. Add staffing challenges and congressional underfunding to the issue and trying to track down a missing refund or deal with an unexpected tax notice is bound to be frustrating.

Roots, Results of the IRS Backlog
As of December 2021, the IRS had a backlog of 6 million unprocessed individual income tax returns, 2.3 million amended returns, and more than 2 million quarterly payroll tax returns, according to a statement from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).

That backlog stems from a combination of COVID-related shutdowns at many of the agency’s processing centers, budget cuts that forced reduced staff sizes, and the IRS overseeing new initiatives, such as stimulus payments and the expanded Child Tax Credit.

Reaching the IRS via phone hasn’t been easy in recent years, and the problem likely will worsen. According to the TAS report, there was a record 282 million taxpayer calls to the IRS in 2021, but the agency answered just 11% of those calls and those who did get through endured long wait times and frequent disconnects.

Understanding what’s going on behind the scenes isn’t much help when you’re facing missing tax refunds, incorrect notices, and other tax troubles. The following tips can help you navigate the IRS backlog and get the answers you need.

Send a complete copy of the correspondence and any other essential documents to your advisor as soon as you receive the notice. Tax professionals have access to a unique IRS customer service line reserved for practitioners, but delays are common there as well, so don’t wait until the last minute to loop them in.

Finally, have patience. The good news is the IRS is working to catch up by fast-tracking hiring, reassigning workers, and scrapping plans to close a tax processing center in Austin, Texas. In the meantime, stay in touch with your tax advisor to be as proactive as possible.

If your business doesn’t already have a retirement plan, now might be a good time to take the plunge. Current retirement plan rules allow for significant tax-deductible contributions.

For example, if you’re self-employed and set up a SEP-IRA, you can contribute up to 20% of your self-employment earnings, with a maximum contribution of $61,000 for 2022. If you’re employed by your own corporation, up to 25% of your salary can be contributed to your account, with a maximum contribution of $61,000. If you’re in the 32% federal income tax bracket, making a maximum contribution could cut what you owe Uncle Sam for 2022 by a whopping $19,520 (32% times $61,000).

More options

Other small business retirement plan options include:

Depending on your circumstances, these other types of plans may allow bigger deductible contributions.

Deadlines to establish and contribute

Thanks to a change made by the 2019 SECURE Act, tax-favored qualified employee retirement plans, except for SIMPLE-IRA plans, can now be adopted by the due date (including any extension) of the employer’s federal income tax return for the adoption year. The plan can then receive deductible employer contributions that are made by the due date (including any extension), and the employer can deduct those contributions on the return for the adoption year.

Important: The SECURE Act provision didn’t change the deadline to establish a SIMPLE-IRA plan. It remains October 1 of the year for which the plan is to take effect. Also, the SECURE Act change doesn’t override rules that require certain plan provisions to be in effect during the plan year, such as the provisions that cover employee elective deferral contributions (salary-reduction contributions) under a 401(k) plan. The plan must be in existence before such employee elective deferral contributions can be made.

For example, the deadline for the 2021 tax year for setting up a SEP-IRA for a sole proprietorship business that uses the calendar year for tax purposes is October 17, 2022, if you extend your 2021 tax return. The deadline for making the contribution for the 2021 tax year is also October 17, 2022. However, to make a SIMPLE-IRA contribution for the 2021 tax year, you must have set up the plan by October 1, 2021. So, it’s too late to set up a plan for last year.

While you can delay until next year establishing a tax-favored retirement plan for this year (except for a SIMPLE-IRA plan), why wait? Get it done this year as part of your tax planning and start saving for retirement. We can provide more information on small business retirement plan alternatives. Be aware that, if your business has employees, you may have to make contributions for them, too.

© 2022

In today’s economy, many small businesses are strapped for cash. They may find it beneficial to barter or trade for goods and services instead of paying cash for them. Bartering is the oldest form of trade and the internet has made it easier to engage with other businesses. But if your business gets involved in bartering, be aware that the fair market value of goods that you receive in bartering is taxable income. And if you exchange services with another business, the transaction results in taxable income for both parties.

How it works

Here are some examples:

In these cases, both parties are taxed on the fair market value of the services received. This is the amount they would normally charge for the same services. If the parties agree to the value of the services in advance, that will be considered the fair market value unless there’s contrary evidence.

In addition, if services are exchanged for property, income is realized. For example,

Barter clubs 

Many businesses join barter clubs that facilitate barter exchanges. These clubs generally use a system of “credit units,” which are awarded to members who provide goods and services. The credits can be redeemed for goods and services from other members.

In general, bartering is taxable in the year it occurs. But if you participate in a barter club, you may be taxed on the value of credit units at the time they’re added to your account, even if you don’t redeem them for actual goods and services until a later year. For example, let’s say that you earn 2,500 credit units one year and that each unit is redeemable for $2 in goods and services. In that year, you’ll have $5,000 of income. You won’t pay additional tax if you redeem the units the next year, since you’ve already been taxed once on that income.

If you join a barter club, you’ll be asked to provide your Social Security number or Employer Identification Number. You’ll also be asked to certify that you aren’t subject to backup withholding. Unless you make this certification, the club is required to withhold tax from your bartering income at a 24% rate.

Reporting to the IRS

By January 31 of each year, a barter club will send participants a Form 1099-B, “Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions,” which shows the value of cash, property, services and credits that you received from exchanges during the previous year. This information will also be reported to the IRS.

Conserve cash, reap benefits

By bartering, you can trade away excess inventory or provide services during slow times, all while hanging onto your cash. You may also find yourself bartering when a customer doesn’t have the money on hand to complete a transaction. As long as you’re aware of the federal and state tax consequences, these transactions can benefit all parties. If you need assistance or would like more information, contact us.

© 2022

The credit for increasing research activities, often referred to as the research and development (R&D) credit, is a valuable tax break available to eligible businesses. Claiming the credit involves complex calculations, which we can take care of for you. But in addition to the credit itself, be aware that the credit also has two features that are especially favorable to small businesses:

1. Eligible small businesses ($50 million or less in gross receipts) may claim the credit against alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability.

2. The credit can be used by certain even smaller startup businesses against the employer’s Social Security payroll tax liability.

Let’s take a look at the second feature. Subject to limits, you can elect to apply all or some of any research tax credit that you earn against your payroll taxes instead of your income tax. This payroll tax election may influence you to undertake or increase your research activities. On the other hand, if you’re engaged in — or are planning to undertake — research activities without regard to tax consequences, be aware that you could receive some tax relief.

Why the election is important 

Many new businesses, even if they have some cash flow, or even net positive cash flow and/or a book profit, pay no income taxes and won’t for some time. Thus, there’s no amount against which business credits, including the research credit, can be applied. On the other hand, any wage-paying business, even a new one, has payroll tax liabilities. Therefore, the payroll tax election is an opportunity to get immediate use out of the research credits that you earn. Because every dollar of credit-eligible expenditure can result in as much as a 10-cent tax credit, that’s a big help in the start-up phase of a business — the time when help is most needed.

Eligible businesses

To qualify for the election a taxpayer must:

In making these determinations, the only gross receipts that an individual taxpayer takes into account are from the individual’s businesses. An individual’s salary, investment income or other income aren’t taken into account. Also, note that an entity or individual can’t make the election for more than six years in a row.

Limits on the election

The research credit for which the taxpayer makes the payroll tax election can be applied only against the Social Security portion of FICA taxes. It can’t be used to lower the employer’s liability for the “Medicare” portion of FICA taxes or any FICA taxes that the employer withholds and remits to the government on behalf of employees.

The amount of research credit for which the election can be made can’t annually exceed $250,000. Note, too, that an individual or C corporation can make the election only for those research credits which, in the absence of an election, would have to be carried forward. In other words, a C corporation can’t make the election for the research credit that the taxpayer can use to reduce current or past income tax liabilities.

The above are just the basics of the payroll tax election. Keep in mind that identifying and substantiating expenses eligible for the research credit itself is a complex area. Contact us about whether you can benefit from the payroll tax election and the research tax credit.

© 2022

If you own your own company and travel for business, you may wonder whether you can deduct the costs of having your spouse accompany you on trips.

The rules for deducting a spouse’s travel costs are very restrictive. First of all, to qualify, your spouse must be your employee. This means you can’t deduct the travel costs of a spouse, even if his or her presence has a bona fide business purpose unless the spouse is a bona fide employee of your business. This requirement prevents tax deductibility in most cases. 

A spouse-employee

If your spouse is your employee, then you can deduct his or her travel costs if his or her presence on the trip serves a bona fide business purpose. Merely having your spouse perform some incidental business service, such as typing up notes from a meeting, isn’t enough to establish a business purpose. In general, it isn’t sufficient for his or her presence to be “helpful” to your business pursuits — it must be necessary.

In most cases, a spouse’s participation in social functions, for example as a host or hostess, isn’t enough to establish a business purpose. That is, if his or her purpose is to establish general goodwill for customers or associates, this is usually insufficient. Further, if there’s a vacation element to the trip (for example, if your spouse spends time sightseeing), it will be more difficult to establish a business purpose for his or her presence on the trip. On the other hand, a bona fide business purpose exists if your spouse’s presence is necessary to care for a serious medical condition that you have.

If your spouse’s travel satisfies these tests, the normal deductions for business travel away from home can be claimed. These include the costs of transportation, meals, lodging, and incidental costs such as dry cleaning, phone calls, etc.

A non-employee spouse

Even if your spouse’s travel doesn’t satisfy the requirements, however, you may still be able to deduct a substantial portion of the trip’s costs. This is because the rules don’t require you to allocate 50% of your travel costs to your spouse. You need only allocate any additional costs you incur for him or her. For example, in many hotels, the cost of a single room isn’t that much lower than the cost of a double. If a single would cost you $150 a night and a double would cost you and your spouse $200, the disallowed portion of the cost allocable to your spouse would only be $50. In other words, you can write off the cost of what you would have paid traveling alone. To prove your deduction, ask the hotel for a room rate schedule showing single rates for the days you’re staying.

And if you drive your own car or rent one, the whole cost will be fully deductible even if your spouse is along. Of course, if public transportation is used, and for meals, any separate costs incurred by your spouse wouldn’t be deductible.

Contact us if you have questions about this or other tax-related topics.

© 2022

The IRS has provided an additional exception for qualified domestic partnerships and S corporations to file their schedules K-2 and K-3 for tax year 2021 to further ease the transition to these new schedules.  The new schedules standardize international tax information to partners and flow-through investors while clarifying obligations and standardizing the reporting format.

Simply put, eligible entities, those with no foreign activities, foreign partners or shareholders, and without knowledge of partners or shareholders needing information on items of international relevance, will not have to file the new Schedules K-2 and K-3 for tax year 2021.

To qualify for this exception, partnerships and S corps must meet the following:

If a partnership or S corporation qualifies for this exception, it does not need to file Schedules K-2 and K-3 with the IRS or its partners or shareholders. However, if a partner or shareholder notifies the partnership or S corporation that all or part of the information contained on Schedule K-3 is needed to complete their tax return, the partnership or S corporation must provide the information to the partner or shareholder.

If a partner or shareholder notifies the partnership or S corporation before the partnership or S corporation files its return, the partnership or S corporation must provide the Schedule K-3 to the partner or shareholder and file the Schedules K-2 and K-3 with the IRS.

Click here to read the IRS notice regarding the relief options. More information can be found in the IRS’ updated Schedule K-2 and K-3 frequently asked questions. Please get in touch with our office today if you need help navigating this new relief or completing your schedules K-2 and K-3.

California recently enacted Senate Bill 113 (SB 113), which made California’s new passthrough entity elective tax (enacted in 2021 as AB150) much more attractive for certain owners of S corporations, partnerships, and LLCs taxed as a partnership or an S corporation.

Many of the limitations and drawbacks to paying this tax were removed by SB 113. Now, the passthrough entity elective tax can dramatically reduce the tax liability of many more taxpayers.

If the entity elects to pay the tax at the entity level, this payment is a federal tax deduction, and it reduces the amount of federal K-1 income passed through to the entity’s partners or shareholders.  The entity is not subject to the $10,000 state and local tax (SALT) limitation enacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, so it can claim a significantly higher tax deduction than an individual can on their individual income tax return. In addition, the individual partners or shareholders will be able to claim up to a 100% credit on their California income tax returns for their share of the tax paid by the entity.

Prior to SB 113, there were significant limitations that made this option unattractive for many taxpayers. However, this new law greatly improved this elective tax option by:

  • Eliminating tentative minimum tax limitations on applying the CA credit
  • Including guaranteed payments paid to partners/LLC members in the tax base
  • Expanding which entities can make the election and the types of owners for whom the tax may be paid

This may be quite beneficial to many taxpayers, but there are a lot of factors to consider in evaluating whether it makes sense for a pass-through entity to make the election and whether the entity’s partners or shareholders should consent to have the entity pay the tax on their share of the entity’s income.

Passthrough entity payments are due by March 15th. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Do you want to withdraw cash from your closely held corporation at a minimum tax cost? The simplest way is to distribute cash as a dividend. However, a dividend distribution isn’t tax-efficient since it’s taxable to you to the extent of your corporation’s “earnings and profits.” It’s also not deductible by the corporation.

Five alternatives

Fortunately, there are several alternative methods that may allow you to withdraw cash from a corporation while avoiding dividend treatment. Here are five areas where you may want to take action:

1. Capital repayments. To the extent that you’ve capitalized the corporation with debt, including amounts you’ve advanced to the business, the corporation can repay the debt without the repayment being treated as a dividend. Additionally, interest paid on the debt can be deducted by the corporation. This assumes that the debt has been properly documented with terms that characterize debt and that the corporation doesn’t have an excessively high debt-to-equity ratio. If not, the debt repayment may be taxed as a dividend. If you make future cash contributions to the corporation, consider structuring them as debt to facilitate later withdrawals on a tax-advantaged basis.

2. Salary. Reasonable compensation that you (or family members) receive for services rendered to the corporation is deductible by the business. However, it’s also taxable to the recipient. The same rule applies to any compensation in the form of rent that you receive from the corporation for the use of property. In both cases, the amount of compensation must be reasonable in relation to the services rendered or the value of the property provided. If it’s excessive, the excess will be nondeductible and treated as a corporate distribution.

3. Loans. You may withdraw cash from the corporation tax-free by borrowing from it. However, to avoid having the loan characterized as a corporate distribution, it should be properly documented in a loan agreement or a note and be made on terms that are comparable to those on which an unrelated third party would lend money to you. This should include a provision for interest and principal. All interest and principal payments should be made when required under the loan terms. Also, consider the effect of the corporation’s receipt of interest income.

4. Fringe benefits.  Consider obtaining the equivalent of a cash withdrawal in fringe benefits that are deductible by the corporation and not taxable to you. Examples are life insurance, certain medical benefits, disability insurance and dependent care. Most of these benefits are tax-free only if provided on a nondiscriminatory basis to other employees of the corporation. You can also establish a salary reduction plan that allows you (and other employees) to take a portion of your compensation as nontaxable benefits, rather than as taxable compensation.

5. Property sales.  Another way to withdraw cash from the corporation is to sell property to it. However, certain sales should be avoided. For example, you shouldn’t sell property to a more than 50% owned corporation at a loss, since the loss will be disallowed. And you shouldn’t sell depreciable property to a more than 50% owned corporation at a gain, since the gain will be treated as ordinary income, rather than capital gain. A sale should be on terms that are comparable to those on which an unrelated third party would purchase the property. You may need to obtain an independent appraisal to establish the property’s value.

Keep taxes low 

If you’re interested in discussing any of these approaches, contact us. We’ll help you get the most out of your corporation at the minimum tax cost.

© 2022

If you’re in business for yourself as a sole proprietor, or you’re planning to start a business, you need to know about the tax aspects of your venture. Here are eight important issues to consider:

1. You report income and expenses on Schedule C of Form 1040. The net income is taxable to you regardless of whether you withdraw cash from the business. Your business expenses are deductible against gross income and not as itemized deductions. If you have any losses, they’re generally deductible against your other income, subject to special rules relating to hobby losses, passive activity losses, and losses in activities in which you weren’t “at risk.”

2. You may be eligible for the pass-through deduction. To the extent your business generates qualified business income, you’re eligible to take the 20% pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations. The deduction is taken “below the line,” so it reduces taxable income, rather than being taken “above the line” against gross income. You can take the deduction even if you don’t itemize and instead take the standard deduction.

3. You might be able to deduct home office expenses. If you work from home, perform management or administrative tasks from a home office or store product samples or inventory at home, you may be entitled to deduct an allocable portion of certain costs. And if you have a home office, you may be able to deduct expenses of traveling from there to another work location.

4. You must pay self-employment taxes. For 2022, you pay self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare) at a 15.3% rate on your self-employment net earnings of up to $147,000 and Medicare tax only at a 2.9% rate on the excess. An additional 0.9% Medicare tax is imposed on self-employment income in excess of $250,000 for joint returns, $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately, and $200,000 in all other cases. Self-employment tax is imposed in addition to income tax, but you can deduct half of your self-employment tax as an adjustment to income.

5. You can deduct 100% of your health insurance costs as a business expense. This means your deduction for medical care insurance won’t be subject to the rule that limits your medical expense deduction to amounts in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

6. You must make quarterly estimated tax payments. For 2022, these are due April 18, June 15, September 15, and January 17, 2023.

7. You should keep complete records of your income and expenses. Carefully record expenses in order to claim all of the deductions to which you are entitled. Certain expenses, such as automobile, travel, meals, and home office expenses, require special attention because they’re subject to special recordkeeping requirements or limits on deductibility.

8. If you hire employees, you need a taxpayer identification number and you must withhold and pay over employment taxes.

We can help

Contact us if you’d like more information or assistance with the tax or recordkeeping aspects of your business.

© 2022

If you operate a business, or you’re starting a new one, you know you need to keep records of your income and expenses. Specifically, you should carefully record your expenses in order to claim all of the tax deductions to which you’re entitled. And you want to make sure you can defend the amounts reported on your tax returns in case you’re ever audited by the IRS.

Be aware that there’s no one way to keep business records. But there are strict rules when it comes to keeping records and proving expenses are legitimate for tax purposes. Certain types of expenses, such as automobile, travel, meals and home office costs, require special attention because they’re subject to special recordkeeping requirements or limitations.

Here are two recent court cases to illustrate some of the issues.

Case 1: To claim deductions, an activity must be engaged in for profit 

A business expense can be deducted if a taxpayer can establish that the primary objective of the activity is making a profit. The expense must also be substantiated and be an ordinary and necessary business expense. In one case, a taxpayer claimed deductions that created a loss, which she used to shelter other income from tax.

She engaged in various activities including acting in the entertainment industry and selling jewelry. The IRS found her activities weren’t engaged in for profit and it disallowed her deductions.

The taxpayer took her case to the U.S. Tax Court, where she found some success. The court found that she was engaged in the business of acting during the years in issue. However, she didn’t prove that all claimed expenses were ordinary and necessary business expenses. The court did allow deductions for expenses including headshots, casting agency fees, lessons to enhance the taxpayer’s acting skills and part of the compensation for a personal assistant. But the court disallowed other deductions because it found insufficient evidence “to firmly establish a connection” between the expenses and the business.

In addition, the court found that the taxpayer didn’t prove that she engaged in her jewelry sales activity for profit. She didn’t operate it in a businesslike manner, spend sufficient time on it or seek out expertise in the jewelry industry. Therefore, all deductions related to that activity were disallowed. (TC Memo 2021-107)

Case 2: A business must substantiate claimed deductions with records

A taxpayer worked as a contract emergency room doctor at a medical center. He also started a business to provide emergency room physicians overseas. On Schedule C of his tax return, he deducted expenses related to his home office, travel, driving, continuing education, cost of goods sold and interest. The IRS disallowed most of the deductions.

As evidence in Tax Court, the doctor showed charts listing his expenses but didn’t provide receipts or other substantiation showing the expenses were actually paid. He also failed to account for the portion of expenses attributable to personal activity.

The court disallowed the deductions stating that his charts weren’t enough and didn’t substantiate that the expenses were ordinary and necessary in his business. It noted that “even an otherwise deductible expense may be denied without sufficient substantiation.” The doctor also didn’t qualify to take home office deductions because he didn’t prove it was his principal place of business. (TC Memo 2022-1)

We can help

Contact us if you need assistance retaining adequate business records. Taking a meticulous, proactive approach can protect your deductions and help make an audit much less difficult.

© 2022

Solana Beach, California – January 25, 2022 — Christina Tharp, Managing Partner and CFO of Hamilton Tharp LLP, is pleased to announce the promotion to Partner of Kim Spinardi effective January 1, 2022. Tina noted the significant contributions Kim has made as a senior staff accountant, manager, and senior manager at the firm. Kim has worked for the firm for more than 3.5 years; her election to partnership reflects her dedication to providing the tradition of service, technical expertise, and innovative thinking that has contributed to the firm’s growth.  

Kim graduated from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in accounting. Kim began her career in the accounting profession with a firm in San Diego, where she spent eight years developing her technical and interpersonal abilities as a trusted advisor. Kim’s experience includes working with small business owners, high-net-worth individuals, professional athletes, and professional service firms. Her technical expertise includes helping clients with stock options, multi-state taxation and residency issues, advanced tax planning strategies, real estate sales and exchanges, taxation of income earned overseas, entity selection, strategies for a business sale, and retirement plan set up.   

Kim holds a Certified Public Accountant license, which she earned in March of 2014. Dedicated to serving the community and giving back through volunteerism, Kim is proud to serve on the Alumni Board and Intercollegiate Athletics Committee at her alma mater, SDSU. She also previously volunteered for Rebuilding Together San Diego and Home of Guiding Hands Audit Committee. Kim also plays an active role at Hamilton Tharp with recruiting for the firm and is part of the SDSU Aztec Mentoring program, acting as a mentor to students of all majors at the university.  

When she isn’t helping her clients achieve their financial goals, Kim can be found at sporting venues across the country and, most notably, at Aztec basketball and football games. You can find Kim riding her Peloton, on the golf course, or enjoying time with her wife, Michelle, and their two Labradoodles, Callie and Jax.  

Founded in 1980, Hamilton Tharp has been serving entrepreneurs, businesses, professional athletes, and high-net-worth individuals with specialized services to help them reach their financial and life goals. The partners are members of the AICPA, the California Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce. For more information about Hamilton Tharp, please call (858) 481-7702 or visit www.ht2cpa.com/.   

 

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While some businesses have closed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, many new ventures have launched. Entrepreneurs have cited a number of reasons why they decided to start a business in the midst of a pandemic. For example, they had more time, wanted to take advantage of new opportunities or they needed money due to being laid off. Whatever the reason, if you’ve recently started a new business, or you’re contemplating starting one, be aware of the tax implications.

As you know, before you even open the doors in a start-up business, you generally have to spend a lot of money. You may have to train workers and pay for rent, utilities, marketing and more.

Entrepreneurs are often unaware that many expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be deducted right away. Keep in mind that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your tax bill.

Essential tax points 

When starting or planning a new enterprise, keep these factors in mind:

Types of expenses

Start-up expenses generally include all expenses that are incurred to:

To be eligible for the election, an expense also must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after a business began. One example would be the money you spend analyzing potential markets for a new product or service.

To qualify as an “organization expense,” the outlay must be related to the creation of a corporation or partnership. Some examples of organization expenses are legal and accounting fees for services related to organizing the new business and filing fees paid to the state of incorporation.

An important decision

Time may be of the essence if you have start-up expenses that you’d like to deduct for this year. You need to decide whether to take the election described above. Recordkeeping is important. Contact us about your business start-up plans. We can help with the tax and other aspects of your new venture.

© 2022

The IRS recently released the 2022 mileage rates for businesses to use as guidance when reimbursing workers for applicable miles driven within the year. The rates tend to increase every year to account for rising fuel and vehicle and maintenance costs and insurance rate increases.  

Businesses can use the standard mileage rate to calculate the deductible costs of operating qualified automobiles for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes. Keep reading for the updated mileage rates, as well as some reminders for mileage reimbursements and deductions.  

Standard mileage rates for cars, vans, pickups and panel trucks are as follows: 

Use Category  Mileage rate  

(as of Jan. 1, 2022) 

Change from previous year 
Business miles driven  $0.585 per mile  $0.025 increase from 2021 
Medical or moving miles driven*  $0.18 per mile  $0.02 increase from 2021 
Miles driven for charitable organizations  $0.14 per mile  Note: Only congress may adjust the mileage rate for service to a charitable organization by a Congress-passed statute.  

*Moving miles reimbursement for qualified active-duty members of the Armed Forces 

Important reminders and considerations 

When reimbursing employees for miles driven, keep in mind the following reminders and considerations: 

To review your organization’s mileage reimbursement policy and any alternate methods for calculating appropriate reimbursement amounts, reach out to our team of knowledgeable professionals today.  

Becoming a partner at a law firm is a goal many lawyers spend their careers striving to reach. Once you’re there, however, you must re-evaluate your personal financial and tax strategies as you shift from employee to owner. If you recently were promoted to partner and have reviewed your personal financial strategy, keep reading.  

Personal financial considerations for new partners 

Many of the personal financial decisions partners need to make depend on two things: the partnership agreement and whether you became an equity (owner) or non-equity partner. The partnership agreement will detail a lot of information about compensation and benefit structures, as well as equity structures and required capital contributions. Factors include: 

Tax considerations for partners 

Switching from an employee to an owner of a law firm also provides additional tax considerations. You’ll most likely see a change from a Form W-2 employee to a Form K-1 owner when it comes time to file your taxes. Keep the following in mind: 

Once you’ve thoroughly reviewed your new partnership agreement, meeting with your tax planner and financial advisor can help you outline a new plan for managing your finances moving forward. Contact us today to get started! 

 

After two years of no increases, the optional standard mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost of operating an automobile for business will be going up in 2022 by 2.5 cents per mile. The IRS recently announced that the cents-per-mile rate for the business use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be 58.5 cents (up from 56 cents for 2021).

The increased tax deduction partly reflects the price of gasoline. On December 21, 2021, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.29, compared with $2.22 a year earlier, according to AAA Gas Prices.

Don’t want to keep track of actual expenses? 

Businesses can generally deduct the actual expenses attributable to business use of vehicles. This includes gas, oil, tires, insurance, repairs, licenses and vehicle registration fees. In addition, you can claim a depreciation allowance for the vehicle. However, in many cases, certain limits apply to depreciation write-offs on vehicles that don’t apply to other types of business assets.

The cents-per-mile rate is beneficial if you don’t want to keep track of actual vehicle-related expenses. With this method, you don’t have to account for all your actual expenses. However, you still must record certain information, such as the mileage for each business trip, the date and the destination.

Using the cents-per-mile rate is also popular with businesses that reimburse employees for business use of their personal vehicles. These reimbursements can help attract and retain employees who drive their personal vehicles a great deal for business purposes. Why? Under current law, employees can’t deduct unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as business mileage, on their own income tax returns.

If you do use the cents-per-mile rate, keep in mind that you must comply with various rules. If you don’t comply, the reimbursements could be considered taxable wages to the employees.

How is the rate calculated? 

The business cents-per-mile rate is adjusted annually. It’s based on an annual study commissioned by the IRS about the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle, such as gas, maintenance, repair and depreciation. Occasionally, if there’s a substantial change in average gas prices, the IRS will change the cents-per-mile rate midyear.

When can the cents-per-mile method not be used?

There are some cases when you can’t use the cents-per-mile rate. It partly depends on how you’ve claimed deductions for the same vehicle in the past. In other situations, it depends on if the vehicle is new to your business this year or whether you want to take advantage of certain first-year depreciation tax breaks on it.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider in deciding whether to use the standard mileage rate to deduct vehicle expenses. We can help if you have questions about tracking and claiming such expenses in 2022 — or claiming 2021 expenses on your 2021 income tax return.

© 2021

Do you want to sell commercial or investment real estate that has appreciated significantly? One way to defer a tax bill on the gain is with a Section 1031 “like-kind” exchange where you exchange the property rather than sell it. With real estate prices up in some markets (and higher resulting tax bills), the like-kind exchange strategy may be attractive.

A like-kind exchange is any exchange of real property held for investment or for productive use in your trade or business (relinquished property) for like-kind investment, trade or business real property (replacement property).

For these purposes, like-kind is broadly defined, and most real property is considered to be like-kind with other real property. However, neither the relinquished property nor the replacement property can be real property held primarily for sale.

Important change

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, tax-deferred Section 1031 treatment is no longer allowed for exchanges of personal property — such as equipment and certain personal property building components — that are completed after December 31, 2017.

If you’re unsure if the property involved in your exchange is eligible for like-kind treatment, please contact us to discuss the matter.

Assuming the exchange qualifies, here’s how the tax rules work. If it’s a straight asset-for-asset exchange, you won’t have to recognize any gain from the exchange. You’ll take the same “basis” (your cost for tax purposes) in the replacement property that you had in the relinquished property. Even if you don’t have to recognize any gain on the exchange, you still must report it on Form 8824, “Like-Kind Exchanges.”

Frequently, however, the properties aren’t equal in value, so some cash or other property is tossed into the deal. This cash or other property is known as “boot.” If boot is involved, you’ll have to recognize your gain, but only up to the amount of boot you receive in the exchange. In these situations, the basis you get in the like-kind replacement property you receive is equal to the basis you had in the relinquished property you gave up reduced by the amount of boot you received but increased by the amount of any gain recognized.

An example to illustrate

Let’s say you exchange land (business property) with a basis of $100,000 for a building (business property) valued at $120,000 plus $15,000 in cash. Your realized gain on the exchange is $35,000: You received $135,000 in value for an asset with a basis of $100,000. However, since it’s a like-kind exchange, you only have to recognize $15,000 of your gain. That’s the amount of cash (boot) you received. Your basis in your new building (the replacement property) will be $100,000: your original basis in the relinquished property you gave up ($100,000) plus the $15,000 gain recognized, minus the $15,000 boot received.

Note that no matter how much boot is received, you’ll never recognize more than your actual (“realized”) gain on the exchange.

If the property you’re exchanging is subject to debt from which you’re being relieved, the amount of the debt is treated as boot. The theory is that if someone takes over your debt, it’s equivalent to the person giving you cash. Of course, if the replacement property is also subject to debt, then you’re only treated as receiving boot to the extent of your “net debt relief” (the amount by which the debt you become free of exceeds the debt you pick up).

Great tax-deferral vehicle

Like-kind exchanges can be a great tax-deferred way to dispose of investment, trade or business real property. Contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss the strategy further.

© 2022

Many tax limits that affect businesses are annually indexed for inflation, and a number of them have increased for 2022. Here’s a rundown of those that may be important to you and your business.

Social Security tax

The amount of an employee’s earnings that is subject to Social Security tax is capped for 2022 at $147,000 (up from $142,800 in 2021).

Deductions 

Business meals

In 2022 and 2021, the deduction for eligible business-related food and beverage expenses provided by a restaurant is 100% (up from 50% in 2020).

Retirement plans 

Other employee benefits

These are only some of the tax limits that may affect your business and additional rules may apply. Contact us if you have questions.

© 2022

If you’re an employer with a business where tipping is customary for providing food and beverages, you may qualify for a federal tax credit involving the Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes that you pay on your employees’ tip income.

Basics of the credit

The FICA credit applies with respect to tips that your employees receive from customers in connection with the provision of food or beverages, regardless of whether the food or beverages are for consumption on or off the premises. Although these tips are paid by customers, they’re treated for FICA tax purposes as if you paid them to your employees. Your employees are required to report their tips to you. You must withhold and remit the employee’s share of FICA taxes, and you must also pay the employer’s share of those taxes.

You claim the credit as part of the general business credit. It’s equal to the employer’s share of FICA taxes paid on tip income in excess of what’s needed to bring your employee’s wages up to $5.15 per hour. In other words, no credit is available to the extent the tip income just brings the employee up to the $5.15-per-hour level, calculated monthly. If you pay each employee at least $5.15 an hour (excluding tips), you don’t have to be concerned with this calculation.

Note: A 2007 tax law froze the per-hour amount at $5.15, which was the amount of the federal minimum wage at that time. The minimum wage is now $7.25 per hour but the amount for credit computation purposes remains $5.15.

An example to illustrate

Example: Let’s say a waiter works at your restaurant. He’s paid $2 an hour plus tips. During the month, he works 160 hours for $320 and receives $2,000 in cash tips which he reports to you.

The waiter’s $2-an-hour rate is below the $5.15 rate by $3.15 an hour. Thus, for the 160 hours worked, he is below the $5.15 rate by $504 (160 times $3.15). For the waiter, therefore, the first $504 of tip income just brings him up to the minimum rate. The rest of the tip income is $1,496 ($2,000 minus $504). The waiter’s employer pays FICA taxes at the rate of 7.65% for him. Therefore, the employer’s credit is $114.44 for the month: $1,496 times 7.65%.

While the employer’s share of FICA taxes is generally deductible, the FICA taxes paid with respect to tip income used to determine the credit can’t be deducted, because that would amount to a double benefit. However, you can elect not to take the credit, in which case you can claim the deduction.

Claim your credit

If your business pays FICA taxes on tip income paid to your employees, the tip tax credit may be valuable to you. Other rules may apply. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

© 2022

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2022. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

January 17 (The usual deadline of January 15 is a Saturday)

January 31 

February 28

March 15

© 2021